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Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Necessary Evil-

In a recent post pboyfloyd challenged both my primary premise and the implication of my argument. He rightly pointed out a flaw in how I stated my argument, a logical inconsistency. I corrected that in my response to his reply, though whether or not to his satisfaction I am currently not aware. As to the other aspect, pboy essentially concluded that I believed government to be "bad."

Groups of unregulated humans are an ugly thing. Hobbes correctly observed that individual life outside of some kind of society is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." In groups that remain unregulated things don't get much better. Orders of tradition, religion, myth, history or some other foundation can mitigate corporate selfishness and greed. They have done so often enough in the past to bring forth the relatively viable and livable orders that exist today.

How trustworthy is any given government? There are abundant examples in the world today indicating that government is not a particularly good thing, from the individual perspective. However, there are a great many governments that display great promise. For all of their flaws, many governments strive with diligence to insure a reasonable quality of life for individuals under their authorities. Between anarchy and tyranny there are some very livable social orders. 

Our current American social order is undergoing some uncomfortable changes. Most specifically, the issue of health care and how it relates society to the individual has the nation in a state of flux. Some believe the government trustworthy and responsible for the regulation and provision of health care. Others trust the government less, and so do not find it the proper venue for the management of the nation's health care.

Those profiting from the status quo utilize all of their strengths to oppose such changes. Those who see the individual as suffering for lack of health care under the current system seek a champion in the power of the government to bring forth change. Some fear that entrusting and empowering the government in yet one more aspect of life will lead to a deterioration of individual liberty. Others see a liberation from fear of the cost and loss due to illness to be worth the sacrifice of some liberties.

My own relationship with the government of the United States, and by virtue of that relationship my relationship with government in general, goes back to the end of my youth. I grew up in an atmosphere of patriotism and good citizenship. I respected the confidence and faith I perceived in my parents and grand parents toward our government, and adopted without question that same confidence.

Around 1968, however, I became much more personally aware of the state of the world and the relationship of the United States to other nations. We were engaged in a war in a distant land called Viet Nam. I watched the news reports on television in the company of my parents. I grew aware of the fact that there were real deaths occurring over there, and many of those deaths were Americans.

I became familiar with the draft, a lottery established to select which young Americans would be taken and sent to that distant war. I understood the terrible sacrifice that was made to end World War II. A clearly defined set of enemies intended to overthrow our nation and take our freedom. The purpose of Viet Nam was a lot less clear.

And so, in my later youth I faced a government which intended to sacrifice me in a distant land for no clear purpose. Talk of dominoes and a vague Red Threat counted for little in justifying the enormous risk to my young life. I was conflicted between wanting to love my country and its government and the threat that same government presented with regard to my option to go on living.

I did serve my country in the uniform of the Army of the United States. I served proudly, and have the honor of being classed as a Viet Nam Era Veteran. I never went to Viet Nam. I volunteered for the Army in order to exercise at least some small control over my military destiny. That control was largely an illusion, but I was none-the-less preserved from actual war and committed instead to fighting the Cold War in Europe. 

Since those days I have looked upon the government as a relatively docile Leviathan, a great and dangerous beast not to be trusted too far. I speak often of a small government which regulates gently, made small to preserve individual liberties but large enough to prevent the unprincipled from acquiring too much power. The true Leviathan is nothing like my dream, and will never be much like that.

There are a great many people poking and prodding the great beast, in the hope of causing it to do their will. Perhaps it even will, for a time. However, it is an entity in itself, and I cannot truly trust the beast. After all, it threatened my life in the past. I cannot make myself believe that it truly has my best interests in mind.

So, deep in my heart, do I think government is bad? Yes. Yes, I do. It is a necessary evil, and I will abide it as such. Even now the great beast grinds young men and women in the mills of war, and I still cannot see the true reason behind it. That it grinds only volunteers does not mitigate the evil by much. 

A necessary evil may be necessary, but it is still evil. 


Jerry said...

A clear and cogent argument. I dislike extremes at both ends of the spectrum -- so I am always floating somewhere in the middle. While I have suspected that the government is on the edge -- ever ready to be tipped into something horrible...I'm not so sure that is really true. That presupposes that the government is a single, united entity -- whereas in reality it is generally plodding, confused, reactionary, and contradictory.

I think one should always question, and be allowed to question, all governmental policy. I don't reject policy just because it is a government plan or program, but I always question it.

I guess moderation is my catchword.

pboyfloyd said...

I think that we need government to make the law, upkeep the infrastructure, defend the nation and to keep the economy in check.

I think we need laws based on fairness and not on authority. A balance between fairness to the individual and fairness to society, which can both be 'abused'.

The infrastructure kind of speaks for itself. We need decent roads, fire protection, cops on the beat, school system, social safety net and such.

We need a national force to defend our borders and our waters.

We need the economy to be stable, for money to be circulating, because it's not based on some finite resource(like gold) and we need to control the finance sector so that they don't just 'wiggle it' so they end up owning everything.

Now, as I see it, in the USA at least, libertarians absolutely refuse to settle for 'good' government. They, instead, demand NO government, and THAT, my friend, is where things get ugly.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

It is extremely hard to find a reasonable balance between the dangers of governmental political tyranny on one side, with the counter tug of cultural and economic tyranny that flourishes in its absence.