Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Were America Still A Republic...."

"Were America still a republic, liberty would be guaranteed regardless ofwhom is elected on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November: the shifty-eyed Ewok (Bush) or the Wizard of Oz Scarecrow (Kerry). In democratic America, however, either of these demiurges will enjoy almost unlimited power. Marriage, marijuana, Microsoft, you name it--there is hardly an aspect of life from which these meddlers are barred. All are subject to the whims of the national majority, or, r ather, of its ostensible representatives.
from the Mises Institute's weekly newsletter....

A friend, Michael Miller, with whom I had discussed these issues a few days earlier, responded (Sept 17):
I'm still enough of an optimist to believe we do have a republic, despite my skepticism of many of the policies of the two men in question.However, liberty is still worth fighting for, as is reminding people where the government is moving towards restricting it.--Michael

My reply:
We are on the same page on that!It';s not so much that I'm a pessimist, as that I haven't yet been able to put my finger on the strategy, or factor, or trendline, that can counteract the worrisome features of governance today. I don't believe that there is no such strategy--to the contrary. It's just that I don't want to be whistling past the graveyard--to move society in the right direction will I think indeed require some "fighting" (not literally) but that requires both being roused to the battle, and a sense of a winning strategy. The analogy might be the U.S. and Britain pre-WWII, where a lack of clear sense of the full measure of the danger, and a complete lack of a strategy for dealing with it, led many to simply cross their fingers and hope for the best. When things finally reached their crisis time, we roused ourself to a response and came up with a winning strategy--but many suffered and many died before we won.The architects of this country came to one fundamental conclusion: That a government self-empowered to do what it will, even when restricted in specific areas by a Magna Carta, was a longterm threat to the liberties of the people. Their strategy was to turn the concept of governance on its head and create a government of enumerated powers rather than enumerated rights, with the aim of severely restricting government powers at the fundament.

But the other fundamental insight is that people in general, not just governmental bureaucrats and politicians, savor the opportunity to force others to do their will, to make others Do The Right Thing (as *they* define it, always), to yield to the temptation of a self-righteousness that justifies all manner of horrors, to insist on winning every battle and viewing compromise, the risk of loss, and the delays of dealing with other people as insufferable. This tendency of most people to lean towards supporting tyranny for their own specific purposes is the greatest risk to the general welfare that there is. For it is not only the politicians and bureaucrats who desire power, it is evenmore so their factions and self-interested supporters who demand they seize such power over others and exercise it for the benefit of the faction. For the bureaucrat or politician or political leader who refuses to seize and use power on behalf of his supporting factions will quickly find himself out of a job.

In the long, long term, finding a counter to this tribal mindset is critical to human happiness. I read once an essay that argued that people have a tribal view of the world that is appropriate in hunter-gatherer society, perhaps, but clashes with the very non-tribal nature of a free society. As you know, counteracting genetic predispositions is no easy trick (my diet, for example)--thus my fretting.mac

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