Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Control is in government’s nature

Control is in government’s nature

(My Clovis News Journal column for January 2, 2015)

If men are good, you don’t need government; if men are evil or ambivalent, you don’t dare have one.
— Robert LeFevre, libertarian businessman

One common argument for government is that people are evil, greedy, and cruel, so government is necessary to protect people from each other.
This seems to ignore the fact government is made up of those same people. How giving some of those evil, greedy, and cruel people authority over the rest is supposed to solve the problem has always mystified me, and asking how this is imagined to work goes unanswered. It's a justification devoid of reason.

Human qualities run the gamut. Humans are selfish and selfless. We are greedy and generous. We fight and we cooperate. We are cruel and we are loving. We like having leaders and we often fall for Rulers.

History shows the negatives tend to be much more additive than are the positives. It is easier to commit evil if you can spread the blame to a group, rather than doing it on your own.

I'm not saying groups can't do good things- they often do- but true evil on a monumental scale usually takes a political "movement". Leaders convince followers to do all sorts of things they'd never dare doing on their own. This can either mean reaching for greatness which otherwise would never have been accomplished, or it can mean participating in genocide or democide. Charismatic leaders can convince people to reject their own principles for "patriotism" and for "the common good". Since humans do have some negative qualities, the worst thing you can do is give them justifications for putting those qualities into practice.

Some of the negatives aren't really negative. Selfishness often causes people to do nice things, because it makes them feel good. There's nothing wrong with that. Greed inspires people to give customers what they want in order to gain more in the long run. At least it's how it works in the free market where truly harmful behavior has consequences.

It seems funny that those who distrust human nature the most are under the impression that giving those flawed humans power and authority over others, and shielding them from the consequences of their actions by allowing them to hide within a group, will make them turn from their negative nature and bring out the best in them. The very nature of political power selects for people who have a desire to control the lives of others- in other words, the very sort of person who should never be permitted to hold power.

Keep doing the same thing, expecting different results. I'm sure it will happen this time.



  1. I share your mystification over the societal belief that collective action is required to ameliorate that of evil individuals. I am a bit more skeptical than you that any group has ever done good…as a group. I concur with the belief that the human species is on balance and as a whole more accurately described as stupid and evil but completely agree with the gist of your article that to then expect institutions formed from it to reflect behavior better than the individuals composing it is clearly ridiculous. I think right behavior is solely the attribute of the particular individuals that possess the personal ethics that require it of them. The point I think is missing in this discussion is that individuals acting under the auspices of a collective are defiled and debased by this influence irrespective of their personal ethical starting point. If an artificial society were arbitrarily constructed of only those humans who were individually decent persons, their consequent behavior; if they willingly associated and identified with it, would nevertheless be corrupted through the perverting influence of the group. Persons of inferior character acting under this influence have their original flawed natures magnified and exacerbated but never minimized, much less benefited or improved. No one was ever made a better person by society, or any of its institutions, than they were made by Nature at birth and through their own individual efforts during life.

    1. I have been a part of some good groups. I'm not talking about institutional groups which develop a life of their own, but temporary groups formed for a purpose which go away after the purpose has been met.

    2. Thanks for the clarification, I appreciate the distinction however I suppose nevertheless that I would regard the actions of those engaged in such a transitory cooperation to be acting on their personal individual interests even though acting in concert with others of similar view. Any collective or 'institutional group', even a temporary one (like a lynch mob) where the groups interests are the motivation driving it seems to me to be inevitably tainted with the corrupting and debasing influence I have observed through my lifetime from the 'herd'. This is an influence I have never observed to be beneficial to right behavior.