Monday, September 15, 2008

Human Nature and Government

Within the soul of every human being is a desire to be free; a desire to make the individual choices that create the most individual happiness and fulfillment. However, none of us are islands of individual happiness and fulfillment. Our individual happiness and fulfillment could not exist without the love, affirmation, and support of many other people who also have their own desire for individual happiness and fulfillment.

When two or more people who depend on each other for happiness have different ideas about what makes for happiness and fulfillment, conflict between the two or the group is inevitable. Often times, this conflict results in one, or both, or all of the people in a relationship trying to exert control over the others. This happens in both one on one relationships like marriage and group relationships like government.

Throughout most of history, this conflict for happiness and fulfillment was resolved by the person or persons with the most power and strength, often through devious and evil methods, exerting their power and strength to control others. Governments were controlled by Kings and Leaders with the biggest and usually most ruthless armies. Families were controlled by men who possessed more strength than women. Even the Catholic Church turned into an organization controlled by the powerful. The Greeks and Romans dispersed some of this authority to more of their citizens, but government still boiled down to having those with power making most of the decisions and controlling those without power.

Early Americans had a better idea for allowing more freedom and individual choices. The American founding fathers (and mothers) said every human has certain rights that can't be taken away or abused by government. They said everyone has the right to freedom (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), not just the humans with power. They believed every citizen in America should pursue their own objectives as long as those objectives did not interfere with the freedom of their co-citizens. Obviously, America never completely obtained this ideal, but it was still a noble idea.

I have come to realize there is no right way for me to make others do the things I want them to do or to make others pay for the things I want. (Thy shall not steal.) Therefore, my view of government is that government should protect it's citizens from force and fraud, but very little else. I believe government should be small and limited. Apparently, most Americans now believe more like the Greeks and Romans where the majority get to use the coercive force of government to get the minority to succumb.


Rick and Gary said...

Hey David -- I've always felt this way as well. But I begin wonder whether bigger, more complex systems -- unfathomable to most voters -- are the price we pay for economic growth year after year, with today's financial meltdown being a case in point in terms of complexity.

I was just musing today that I've always been a deficit hawk but have also always believed the we need a huge gas tax to rationalize people's use of a precious resource (and stop sending huge money to the Middle East).

People won't accept gas taxes. But the huge budget deficits and $12 trillion national debt have devalued the dollar, which has brought about $4/gallon gas. (Paradoxically, the Bush Administration will have accomplished more for energy conservation than anyone in the history of the world)

But how many people really understand that? It's pretty complicated. You can rebel against a tax on gas, but what do you say when the price just goes up and you really don't understand why?

I guess this is why people are more attracted to the personalities of politicians, rather than the stated polices. The policies are kind of a shell game, anyway. But historically, when people just trust in personalities rather than really understand what's going on, the results have been disastrous.

Kevin said...

Hi David,

That last sentence of yours saddens me, but there's truth to it.

I recently read a VC article regarding Book-banning that makes the point that, from a libertarian perspective, the government should not run libraries, but the government does run libraries and since that will not change any time soon, we are left with questions of content and acquisition and how that butts against the responsibilities of the government to not infringe free speech. There is something fundamentally at odds here that I think argues for local control even as it maintains the pervasive assumption of federal control.

But even if we do restrict the federal government to maximizing liberty, we also must consider the appropriate roles of state, county, and local governments. And, strangely, maximizing liberty would seem to entail the freedom to form restrictive organizations. In that sense, government is just such an organization wherein we have freedom of membership, no?

So, it seems that the underlying argument is that the federal government is just too big of a package to take or leave as a whole -- that the granularity of the organizations that we belong to should be smaller and finer, so that the individual has more control to take or leave it's parts. Does that sound right?


David M. Smith said...

Hi Rick,

Is BIG government the price we pay for BIG business and BIG unions or are BIG business and BIG unions the price we pay for BIG government?

I guess it is inevitable that as people organize into groups to protect their self interests, the groups get larger and larger and the rights of the individual get diminished.

I agree with your goal of decreasing dependence on Middle Eastern Oil, but your proposed solution to increase the gas tax seems to me like another example of those in power trying to force those without power to bend to the will of the powerful.

Individuals should be free to choose whether or not each wants to support Middle Eastern oil producers, but in the BIG everything world we live in, individuals just have to go with the way the collective wind is blowing.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Kevin,

Yes it does sound right to me.

I think authority should be driven down to the most local authority possible. If a government function can be done by the State, it should not be done by the Country. If a government function can be done by the City, it should not be done by the State or County.

If a family can be responsible, the City should not be involved. I may be going a little overboard, but I am teaching my daughters to not even need me. If they are capable of doing something without my help, I want them to take individual responsibility and not include me.

Rick and Gary said...

Hi David -- Or is Big Government the price we pay for a military imperium in which we conduct two wars (Iraq, Afghanistan), while threatening two others (Iran, Russia), while propping up an artificial religious state (Israel) in the face of opposition from practically the entire world, so we can pave the way for The Rapture, I guess. Oh, and we pay for it by borrowing money and praying the bill never comes due.