Thursday, April 21, 2011

Politics' Wrong Answer

Political questions are inevitably questions about our view of government; what it should and should not do, how it should operate, what size it should be, etc. Our answers to these questions will fall somewhere on the continuum between anarchy and absolute tyranny. While there are a small minority of humans who would actually advocate for anarchy or some form of totalitarianism, the vast majority of us would agree that the proper form of government would fall somewhere in between.

Anarchy, most of us would agree, is the state of having too little government; absolute tyranny is the state of having too much. I believe that it's instructive to construct our own political ideology in terms of which of these states we find ourselves too close to most often, and then prescribe that which moves us further from that extreme condition.

In a world where anarchy was the norm, where there were very few forms of government that existed and the ones that did exist were all extremely minimalist I would advocate strongly for a concerted effort towards building more and larger government. This seems the entirely obvious and appropriate response to the troubles of that particular world. The important question then becomes: Is that our world? It would seem not. Almost all inhabitable land on the planet is governed and very little of it is by very minimalist forms of government.

In a world where tyranny was the norm, or a much more frequent cause of discord than anarchy, I would advocate strongly in favor of reducing the size and power of all governments. Is this our world? It is. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Thus there are despots and tyrants that abound. There is the tyranny of communism and collectivism, where it still persists. Even the free, enlightened liberal democracies of the world, such as those of the United States and the most of the West, often teeter precariously between being an oppressive nanny state and a kind of soft tyranny. So even in the governments of the world that are closest to being ideal, tyranny is a much more real, tangible danger than anarchy.

Anarchy as a danger never even enters into our discussions because the reality is that any current position of power that is occupied, if ever evacuated, would quickly be usurped by someone, or some group, waiting in the wings, hungry for power. Once power and control advances its territory it's only with the greatest struggle that it can ever be pushed back. Thus, the only time anarchy arises in political discussions is in the wholly theoretical and abstract realm. Never as a danger that we need to be cautious about quietly slipping into. Tyranny, on the other hand, we quietly slip further into constantly.

In a world where we were constantly on the brink of slipping into anarchy--a world which we emphatically do not inhabit--where the monster of not-enough-government loomed perilously, the proper response would be liberalism. That is: more government. In a world where we are constantly in danger of sliding quietly into the grasp of tyranny, the proper response is conservatism. That is: less government.

Thus the baseline, default political position for any rational person inhabiting the world at this moment should be conservatism. Not only that, but it's a pretty solid and far-right conservatism, since we experience so much tyranny and almost a complete dearth of anarchy.

I imagine at this point in the argument many liberals would protest that the question of governance isn't necessarily about bigger or smaller, but about better and worse. This is folly. Only after we've determined the fundamental cause of our ills and come up with a general prescription can we delve into details and specifics. At which point we can then address the question of whether we should be far-right or far-far-right--that is the question of how to govern more efficiently or intelligently. Until then, however, when thinking in terms of the big-picture, the most fundamental question of direction is our primary concern. Not quality, not efficiency, not subtle degrees of this or that, but the absolute vector of our political movement.

Incidentally, I don't believe that the vector of conservatism is inherently superior to that of liberalism. In the theoretical world I described earlier, where anarchy reigned supreme, political liberalism would definitely be the preferred prescription. In this world though, the one we actually inhabit, where tyranny abounds, the question can not be between conservatism and liberalism but must be between conservatism and radical conservatism. All prescriptions for liberalism are ultimately prescriptions to send us further down a path of destruction that we already find ourselves much too far along.

The most basic political question has a wrong answer and it is liberalism.

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