James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why Elites Still Believe in Government

Vache Folle(here and here) and Steve Scott address the problem of elites ruling a corrupt people. As articulated by Folle:

The authoritarian elitist position has at its core a paradox. If humans are naturally evil and stupid, then their human rulers will probably be evil and stupid as well. Accordingly, any government constructed by humans will inevitably be the fruit of evildoing and stupidity and not a check thereon.

For a long time, I had trouble wondering why believers in Big Government did not realize this. If people are stupid, ignorant, irresponsible, evil, and weak, how will they get wise, informed, responsible, virtuous, and strong leaders? Getting a good King is a role of the dice; an aristocracy will just use force to maintain their economic privileges and ensure that social injustices are entrenched. And a "democracy" - particularly a large one in which suffrage is universal but the actual number of representatives is small (such as one for every 700,000), virtually guarantees a Congress full of con artists. If people are evil and stupid, even a constitution with checks and balances won't work for long.

But now I'm beginning to think, Big Government advocates do know this to be true. They just don't think it's relevant, or that it applies to them. They are not interested in utopia, but see instead a long war for the "soul" of the people and will accept incremental progress. "Strong government is necessary, and it is far better that we controlled it instead of somebody else."

For the Christian conservative who believes that people are evil, government service is a means of making the world less bad than it otherwise would be. Government can restrain the bad folks, and prevent them from corrupting our youth. It is better for the righteous to exert at least some influence in an otherwise un-righteous environment, like Daniel in Babylon or Joseph in Egypt. Moreover, "anarchy" to them will mean chaos for the very reason that individuals are evil; the heavy hand of the State is necessary to keep order. Better to suffer occasionally excessive force or corruption in the State than be totally unprotected in a war of all against all. Therefore, electing Christians to office is a top priority.

For the leftist, who believes that social conditions have made people weak and ignorant, the State is the means of their improvement and salvation. With the right values taught in the public schools, and with the proper social reforms, over the long haul individuals will be less ignorant and corrupt than they are now. The government and the people will mutually make each other better.

In both cases, increased government power is acceptable if the "right people" are in charge. And here is where they really part ways with libertarians: to them, the benefits of holding power is worth the risk of it falling into the wrong hands. Though they won't admit it, it might even be beneficial for the other party to gain power for a while. After all, the precedent Bill Clinton set in attacking Serbia allowed a right-wing President to invade Iraq, which will in turn give the green light for a left-wing President to invade Sudan and "save Darfur." The nationalization of education standards under the Left - initially criticized by the Right - made way for the Right to exert even more federal control of the schools. Whoever strikes first allows the other to do the same. For example, if a right-wing Administration arrests Howard Stern for obscenity, then a left-wing Administration will feel justified in arresting a right-wing preacher for using his church for political action. Both will say that the First Amendment doesn't apply. Both will honestly believe that their oppressive actions will actually benefit the country.

If you ask either side, "Aren't you afraid that the increased powers of government you endorse will eventually be used against you?" the answer is a shrug. It will just be another issue to energize their base with.

Those who believe they are among the "chosen few" with the right beliefs, ideas, and talents to lead the country won't be interested in logic. They're not in politics because they "have faith in Democracy" or the Constitution or whatever, they're in politics because they believe they have the right to rule. "Sure, the masses are evil and stupid," they tell themselves, "but I'm good and wise, and that's why I deserve to lead."

1 comment:

  1. Lately I'm more inclined to believe
    government is, and probably always
    has been, a club for psychopaths.

    What honest person would ever do
    that kind of "work"?

    I expect that someday most will
    let that sink in and act accordingly.