Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Save to My Library
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Review of Gary Wills A Necessary Evil

Review of Gary Wills A Necessary Evil

Ratings: (0)|Views: 904 |Likes:
Published by Anders Mikkelsen
This is a review of Gary Wills book A Necessary Evil. It reviews the logical and philosophical problems in Garry Wills book as well as the historical problems. It could be considered a partial rebuttal of A Necessary Evil.
This is a review of Gary Wills book A Necessary Evil. It reviews the logical and philosophical problems in Garry Wills book as well as the historical problems. It could be considered a partial rebuttal of A Necessary Evil.

More info:

Published by: Anders Mikkelsen on Aug 20, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOC, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





A Necessary Evil
Anders Mikkelsenamikkelsen@yahoo.com5/21/2009
Gary Wills’ book A Necessary Evil talks about the long running theme in AmericanSociety of distrust of government and why this is a bad thing. He seeks to void the ‘myth’that increases in ‘government’ decrease liberty. Instead it is a necessary good, and notsomething to be limited and hampered. As we shall see he fails to effectively deal withhis opponents strong arguments. Nor does he adequately define and deal with what‘government’ is today, i.e. it is The State.He is an excellent writer and makes some good and important points that most peopledon’t know and I don’t disagree with.1.Constitution was about creating a stronger central state.2.Congress is supposed to be the most powerful branch.3.There is a big thread in American history of a powerful state for the betterment of society. [This may be an interpolation.]4.Many people who are for a smaller state are hypocritical and should admit thatthey just want the state controlled by them or enforcing their policies.Most people probably do know this point of Gary Wills - Socialized health care, ‘social justice,’ socialism, social democracy can not be achieved without the state or governmentas he calls it. (There is a section later on what socialized health care can achieve, andwhether it really meets the stated objective of helping people.)
I believe it a well written statement promoting government and state intervention insociety. He thinks we should embrace the state and figure out how to best use it. It islikely that his arguments sway many readers who are unfamiliar with The State and thearguments for and against it. However his work fails to effectively deal with the nature of the state and the arguments about the limits of positive state intervention, as well as thosearguments against its very nature.There are two primary points he seems to ignore.Rules and Principles are limits. Some rules exist, e.g. Slavery is wrong.State sovereignty is limited by reality, e.g. 2 + 2 = 4, and the state can’t changethat.Therefore government actions must be limited, because attempts to pass those limits willresult in disaster. Instead of defining realistic limits, Wills primarily focuses onAmericans distrust of government.Wills would presumably be familiar with thoughts and sentiments similar to thefollowing, but they don’t appear to have affected his core argument.“…government “discretion” unencumbered by principled limits run straightagainst the grain of the liberal doctrine.”(Ralph Raicohttp://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_13_02_1_raico.pdf   p. 7.) [Krauthammer] insists that there were four different Bush Doctrines, he actually proves that there is only one: [George W.] Bush is completely above the law -- period, whichever way you cut it. first, international law; then, the moral law;then, constitutional law; and last, "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" of Jefferson's Declaration.( Christopher Manionhttp://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/2008_09_13.html)As political scientists have documented, one hallmark of tin-pot tyrannies is the belief that political leaders should be liberated from the constraints of law as longas that helps to achieve good results. That's the defining mentality of those whocrave benevolent tyrants -- our Leaders have so many Good and ImportantThings to do for us that they can't be distracted and weighed down by abstractluxuries like upholding the rule of law. That's now clearly the prevailingconsensus of our political establishment.(Glen Greenwald – http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/11/13/partisanship/index.html)Like many people he constantly conflates ‘The State’ with society and rules, law, justice,and government in the sense of just rules governing social interaction. While Wills pointsout the benefits of society, the primary arguments against the state are that it impedes
social cooperation. Wills ignores these arguments, argument which were in the writingsof the very people his book discusses. It could perhaps be argued that these argumentsweren’t clearly stated enough for Wills to notice them, and they are much more clearlystated in similar arguments by English and other European Classical Liberals, Radicals,and Liberal Anarchists, but Wills is completely unfamiliar with them so he didn’tunderstand the implications of the Americans’ writings. The strong arguments against TheState point out that The State basically by definition is not society and violates anycomprehensible definition of law and justice. It must commit evil which is why it isconsidered a necessary evil. As George Washington said, “Government is not reason; it isnot eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” WhileWills is familiar with the results of these arguments, seen in the writings he discusses inhis book, I believe he ignores the underlying arguments about principles and the nature of the state.
What is the State?
Before continuing it is probably best to examine what The State is. In the popular mindand in rhetoric, speeches, etc. it is often conflated with society and the nation. Aseffective as this is for legitimizing the state, it doesn’t make it true. As any PoliticalScience class will tell you the state is as Max Weber said – an organization that has amonopoly over the legitimization of the use of force in a given territory. There are severalkey points about what the state is.1.It is a corporation. That is to say that it is an abstract body or legal entity whosemembers derive their power from their position but do not possess it. (With theking and feudalism powers are inherited and inherent in the person, a property if not property.)2.As a corporation it is separate from society. It is also separate from the military.(In feudalism everyone in power is basically society and the military. Similarlythe Greek Polis and the Roman Republic may look like states, but are effectivelythe assembled people, i.e. society, the free adult males who fight.)3.It often ostensibly serves and is subordinate to the king, feudal ruler, owners,nation, people, public, party, or other rulers.4.It claims it is Sovereign, answering to no higher authority, e.g. Emperor, God, TheChurch, Natural Law or other Law, international opinion, more powerful states, or common decency.5.Being Sovereign, it claims to decide what use of force is legitimate. This includesdeciding the legitimacy of the actions of state officials, the military, and membersof society.6.It claims it alone has the right to tax.7.It claims it alone can make war.8.It is a relatively recent and Western concept and not one found in practically allsocieties at all times.9.There being other forms of Government in other times, The State is clearly notnecessary for government or law.

Activity (2)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 thousand reads
1 hundred reads

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->