A Purim lesson on the nature of government from Megillat Esther

Purim has a lot to say about the nature of government. What immediately comes to mind is that the public head of government, in the Megilla’s case Achashverosh (Xerxes), is almost always an idiot. In modern times it would be the equivalent of a Netanyahu or Obama or Sanders or Cruz or Trump or Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t mean they’re stupid people all around. For example I wouldn’t say Trump is a full blown idiot. But his view of trade is idiotic and extremely dangerous. People trade for mutual benefit, not competition. All of the public figures have issues they are absolutely idiotic about.

The people who really pull the strings of power are almost always behind the scenes. In Purim’s case Haman, or Harvonah (l’havdil), or Esther or Mordechai, or the myriad of advisors that give advice to the king when he’s feeling sexually frustrated because he killed his wife in a drunken rage. Some (Esther, Mordechai, Harvonah) try to steer power in a good direction, others (advisors, Haman) in a bad one.

But there’s a new lesson I spotted tonight. “A law written in the name of the king and signed with the king’s seal cannot be repealed.”

When Esther asks Achashverosh to get rid of a bad law to kill the Jews, the King responds that laws cannot be repealed. So instead he allows Mordechai and Esther to write another law in his name, which is not really a law at all, but a corollary of the non aggression principle. That is, if someone is coming to kill you, you can kill him first.

The lesson is subtle. It’s that government does not shrink. It never shrinks. It only grows. Once a law is passed, it can never be repealed. Even if it can in principle, it almost never is, with very few exceptions. The laws keep piling on and on until the government collapses, and then the process begins again, unless libertarians stop it.

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