Must People Be Forced To Get Along?

My view of the world is that it is in people’s best interest to cooperate peacefully. As a result, they do. Across the world, billions of people wake up every day and work their butt off to feed their family and get ahead in life. The vast, vast, vast majority go about their work and mind their own business. They don’t attack other people, they don’t rob houses, they don’t commit fraud.

Yes, there are bad guys out there. There are a lot of them. Some are products of their circumstances. Their options are to either do crimes or starve. Others are just bad eggs; rotten to the core. They beat people up, steal stuff, murder, rape, drop bombs on innocents, embezzle the life savings of unwitting victims, and on and on. These people make up a tiny minority of the world’s population.

Many argue that people are basically peaceful because they are scared of going to jail. If big brother wasn’t watching them, they’d go over to the dark side. Only because we have a strong government constantly watching over us do we act right. The government passes and enforces laws and that keeps us all in line. I reject this view wholeheartedly.

Have you ever seen a riot? They are basically uncontrollable. The cops in most cases have no choice but to wait for a lull before they go in and try to suppress rioters. If human’s wanted to just rob and destroy all the time, nothing could stop them. There aren’t enough government officials in the world put down worldwide riots.

Riots usually break out after people feel that some atrocious wrong has been committed. They almost never start “just because”.

So we know for sure that humans, by nature, are not full fledged hell raisers. But what about lesser crimes? If given the chance, would most people steal groceries from the grocery store if they knew for a fact that they wouldn’t be caught? Based on experience alone, I must answer in the negative. Some would, but I’d put it at a very small percentage.

Of course, there is really no way to prove this. One thing that I can say for certain, though, is that nobody that I know would steal food from a store. I know I wouldn’t. Would you? Would your family members? Of all the people you know in life, what percentage would commit crimes if they knew they wouldn’t be caught? Its likely a minuscule number.

Yes, but those are our loved ones. The people I hang with are saints. Its all of the other people out there that are the dangerous ones, right? Don’t be so sure about it. I’ve been around the block and around the world. Most people, regardless of their country, their religion, or their class, are basically good. By good I mean they are just trying to live life. Ripping people off is just not something that they do.

We’ve all known some grade A scumbags. That’s undeniable. But reflect back to all the dinner parties, all the traveling, all the trips to the mall and the grocery store, all the sporting events, all the times you picked up your kid from school. How many people struck you as potential criminals if it weren’t for the law?

And what is the law anyways? Is it just a series of decrees passed by the government to keep us all in line? How did law even come about?

The fact is that law originally was nothing more that a codification of the way people acted anyways. The original law makers took a look at humanity and made some observations. They saw that in general people didn’t commit murder. But when murder was committed, it was harmful. It caused mourning and sadness. It kept people from working. It made people feel unsure about their safety. Okay, law number one. No murder. The same reasoning resulted in theft, fraud, adultery, etc. being labeled as crimes as well. When people carried out such anti-social acts they were punished. Judges were the wise men chosen to decide whether a law had been broken and what punishment was appropriate.

People could see that the laws were good. A system of justice makes sense. But it is important to keep in mind that the law’s origin is nothing more than human nature itself.

When the law is perceived and carried out properly, two essential things happen. Capital is accumulated  and labor is divided. It is precisely these two things that cause civilization to flourish. Just think of what life would be like if you had to produce for yourself everything you use. On top of that, imagine using primitive tools to do it. All the modern stuff that we enjoy and take for granted would be impossible.

This gives some insight, then, into why people tend to get along and work together. First, it is in their nature to do so. Crimes are nothing more than anti-social anomalies. Second, the benefits of such behavior are manifest. When people act withing the confines of the law, which is nothing more than natural human tendencies formally recorded, prosperity ensues.

Based on the above, we must conclude that it is not fear of punishment that makes people cooperate peacefully. It is rather the result of their recognition that acting as such is beneficial. Although most people may not be able to verbalize this notion precisely, they do act according to it.

These values are ingrained in most societies. Children are taught from a young age not to lie, cheat, steal, hit, curse, etc. The traditions are passed on from generation to generation. As long as this continues, the condition of humanity is a constant upward march.

We must always aim to accurately identify and castigate those who demonstrate anti-social behavior. Common crooks and killers are easy to spot. But there is another group in society who commits crimes in a much more subversive way. If they aren’t wrangled up and controlled, the human condition will get worse. The people that I’m referring to, incredibly, pretend to be the gatekeepers of the law when they are actually the most prolific violators of it.

I’ll give you hint who they are: you have to vote for them.

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