Government Against the People: It Gets Worse In the Late Stages

government against the peopleAll governments – communist, capitalist, fascist, monarchy, theocracy, whatever – survive on the skim. They take money from productive people, by force or threat of force. However prettied-up or justified this fact may be, it remains the central fact of rulership.

It’s a simple but disturbing truth: A late-stage state’s modus operandi must always be “government against the people” – an MO that is inherently predatory. And it’s not because the participants are all sociopaths (though many are).

At most times, governments try very hard to skim quietly, as with payroll taxes, where the producer’s money is taken away before he or she ever holds it in their hands. That’s also why tariffs were a traditional tax – the average person never saw it, and didn’t feel violated.

But when governments are massively over-extended, they lose the luxury of the quiet skim and become more aggressive. This is simply what happens in long-established, monopolistic institutions, like governments. They spend wildly to make themselves look good, then find they need more money. Not willing to cut their spending, they have two choices:

  1. Debasement of the currency, which they always do first. But this trick never works for very long, since people do engage their minds when conducting commerce and adjust their prices to counteract the debasement.
  2. Squeeze the producers dry, any way they can.

The Problem of Legitimacy

You may wonder why the governments don’t just cut their spending. That would seem an obvious choice. But they can’t cut spending without tarnishing their image as the mighty protector and the great fount of human compassion. People pay taxes willingly because of this high and mighty image; lose the image and you lose tax compliance.

Think about it: the governments of the West portray themselves as the saviors of the weak, the healers of the sick, and the fixers of every problem. But if they stop paying off the poor, there will be riots, and the producers will get hurt. No longer being protected, they may no longer consent to having their money taken away from them day by day.

Governments function on legitimacy more than force. If they lose their legitimacy, they are done. Therefore they cannot cut spending.

The Philosophy of “Government Against the People” at Work

Our Western civilization is at a late stage, just like Rome in the 5th century, or Greece in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC, or like the Egyptians and Sumerians before them. The same basic suite of problems engulfs them all at these stages, but we will use Rome as example, since that is the closest to us in both time and temperament.

Take a look at the two graphs below.

This one shows the Roman debasement, which involved mixing cheap metals (such as lead) into their silver coins:

government against the people

Now look at this one, showing the debasement of the dollar, which involved the creation of debt-based currency:

government against the people

 These are essentially the same chart, showing the same phenomenon.

What came next for Rome was the abuse of the producers.

Rome taxed in very different ways than modern governments, so I won’t take pages to describe it all, but I will give you a few highlights:

  • The local elites who were charged with collecting taxes couldn’t keep up with Rome’s demands and started running away. Rome couldn’t find anyone willing to accept these very high positions, no matter how much prestige was attached.
  • People adapted to avoid taxes, and Rome passed new laws in response. (This helped create the serfdom of the middle ages.)
  • People ran away to the Germanic and Frankish areas that surrounded Rome. To illustrate that fact, here’s a quote from a man named Salvian the Presbyter, from about 440 AD:

Thus, far and wide, they migrate either to the Goths or to the Bagaudae, or to other barbarians everywhere in power; yet they do not repent of having migrated. They prefer to live as freemen under an outward form of captivity, than as captives under the appearance of liberty. Therefore, the name of Roman citizens, at one time not only greatly valued, but dearly bought, is now repudiated and fled from, and it is almost considered not only base, but even deserving of abhorrence.

I could go on at length, but I think you get the picture. There were taxes on income, taxes on sales, arbitrary taxes, farm taxes, plain confiscations, and so on. If you had a friend close to the emperor, you had a chance to be ignored, but if not, you were mercilessly bled dry. (And even a friend with the emperor’s ear might not help.)

Your Choices Now

I think it’s quite clear that we’re in the same civilizational stage as late Rome. What happens to us won’t be identical, but it will be similar. The one great advantage we have now is information. If we pay attention, we are able to see what is happening before it hits. We can also adapt to avoid most of the consequences. We may not like it that we have to adapt repetitively, but history doesn’t give us many options – late stage mega-institutions will behave like late-stage mega-institutions.

And in the short term, the “Government against the People” philosophy is not going to disappear. In fact, it’s likely to get much worse. Our choice is to get out of the way, or not.

Paul Rosenberg

[Originally published at]

14 thoughts on “Government Against the People: It Gets Worse In the Late Stages”

  1. You may wonder why the governments don’t just cut their spending. That would seem an obvious choice. But they can’t cut spending without tarnishing their image as the mighty protector and the great fount of human compassion.

    That’s one reason. I think that more fundamentally, to cut spending means to diminish their little empires, or even to risk losing their cushy government jobs altogether. The lust for power is very strong, some say even stronger than the lust for sex, though we feel the latter more consciously. And of course, everyone wants a guaranteed source of income, especially at government salaries.

    These are essentially the same chart, showing the same phenomenon.

    True, though the force of this assertion is reduced somewhat by the fact that one graph has a linear vertical axis, while the other is logarithmic. But I’m splitting hairs.

    Our choice is to get out of the way, or not.

    Getting “out of the way” is of course quite difficult. The reach of the U.S. covers most of the globe, and the exceptions tend to be areas that offer no significant opportunities for income, especially for a transplant. Someone who has enough money to retire on has many options, while those of us who are dependent on salaries have fewer.

    Certainly, though, it’s good to be informed, and this column advances that goal. Keep ’em coming!

    1. I agree, JdL. If you would like to get “out of the way” you might want to consider a way to make an income online while living in some wonderful place. It’s not practical for everyone and perhaps you’ve already ruled it out. Many people are finding that technology can be leveraged to seamlessly continue existing livelihoods. (I’m typing this from a cafe overlooking the Gulf of Thailand.)

  2. And we are armed. Their are far more of us who are armed than them. But for the most part the majority still believe in their authority and legitimacy. When that paradigm shift happens they are in trouble and will all have targets on their backs and the people will be looking for a little payback.

  3. “”Take a look at the two graphs below. This one shows the Roman debasement,” – TOTALLY different charts — different time-scales (Roman ~200 years = = from? –, while the US, ~100 years = AND the US$ graph is LOGARITHMIC on “value” (+deflated by the CPI)! Can the purchasing power of a Roman Denaris be in anyway related to a Dollar? MOST of our present devaluation occurred around the Great-Depression (the REAL one!), and we are now enjoying the much “shallower” tailing, probably from our continual increases in productivity… -denarius_03252010 +equivalent+US+dollar+$

  4. The government will continue to expand despite the objections of WTP and the entitlement mentality will be expanded to accommodate those that believe that they are owed their lively hood from society because society has wronged society.

    Then you have the scandals in government. The IRS targeting political opposition of those that disagree with the party in power (violation of the construction). Then you have the DOJ looking at the AP’s phone records to catch an inside government snitch. (constructional violation?) Then you have the NSA looking at every ones phone data and a secret program no one knew about called Prism that is looking at and storing your web use and email correspondence )a violation of the construction?). In 2009 the DOJ was sending guns across the southern boarder to drug cartels under the guise of tracking them. This program was three pronged. First the guns were sent to the Sinaloa cartel in trade for information about the other operating cartels and they could move there drugs freely across the boarder into the US. Now about the guns, this was also used as information that gun trafficking was running ramped from the UC to Mexico. Thus calling for stricter gun control (more constructional violations?). Much of the drugs being confiscated by the DEA is only moved from the hands of those transporting them to the hands of DEA trusted distributers and the money is laundered and where it goes you can figure out on your own. Then we have the Benghazi embassy and the murder of four Americans. Help was called for and denied. The operation just to cut through the fat was another gun running operation. Libyan weapons taken after the war were being sent to Syria. Completely illegal but dead men can tell no tells.

    The government has been lying to us since Ragen was in office and has gotten perpetual worse till know. Is the government destine to fail? I believe so and sooner then latter. This administration has made a calculated risk to bribe if you will as many people with entitlements and expand government to a point of busting that the seams to set up the progressive party for potentially maintaining their hold on government into perpetuity. Just my thoughts.

  5. One of the most fascinating passages in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire describes the revenue agents going door to collect gold. In Gibbon’s superb English, he notes “Torture was very freely employed” to make gold hoarders comply.

  6. The author does not understand contemporary economics or the position of the US gov vs the world. The first one is trivial to address and does not require a long attention span so I will address that. With regard to humans and value, the only constant is time.

    I wanted to show how much less time it took to earn a meal from Say 1900 to today. I am sure that it is on the order of 1/10. I could not find it. I did find this:

    and this:
    and this:

    sort of close to 10%

    Not that there are not problems. But having ignorant people describing imaginary problems based on ignorance and a complete lack of understanding of our environment is really not going to help fix our very real problems. If you have an attention span of more than a twit, than enter the two words orwells boot into any search engine. My article will be number 1, usually under the name factotum666. Constructive criticism is welcome. You can also visit But that will require at least two hours.

  7. In America’s case, it was far different. Under the original recipe, the “republican form,” governments were servants, delegated power to secure rights and nothing more, without explicit consent. Since securing rights was prosecuting deliberate injury and adjudicating accidental injury, such a government is not prone to bloat. Unfortunately, Americans abandoned the republican form in 1820s, and embraced the democratic form with an ever growing franchise (vote). (Currently, the “dead” vote as well as non-citizen invaders).

    1. The democratic (democracy) form of unlawful govt started coming out after WW1, not in the 1820’s. In fact, the word democracy as being described about America wasn’t even mentioned until around the Federal Reserve was “legalized.”

  8. 3cQe – Recently I used to be lacking in cash and debts were killing me from everywhere! that was Right Until I learned to make money on the INTERNET! I went to surveymoneymaker period net, and started doing surveys for straight cash, and really I’ve been great amounts more able to get around financialy!! i’m very glad, i did this! With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. – 0gTM

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