Not only our current national follies – really, the shutdown involves roping off access to the old North Bridge in Massachussets and a monument to the original tea party? Something that like the WWII monument and the self sustaining farm, and the service academy football game requires NO federal money but requires federal money to shut down and keep shut like, oh, the trail heads of suddenly “closed” trails? Really? You really think we are that stupid? – but the follies of SFWA including the hilariously bizarre survey that Kate fisked today have brought to my mind again the oddly persistent myth that if only the right people were in charge, then we could have a paradise right here.
I have no idea why this myth persists, except, of course “How full of brambles is this workaday world.” That is, almost all of us know someone who really deserved much better from life, and who got handed the short (and often dirty) end of the stick. And we know right bastages, with nothing to recommend them, not even a good amount of the brains given a common goose, who flourish like the green bay tree.
To our monkey brains this seems wrong and like there should be a better way to organize things. Then comes the temptation. “If only the right people were in charge.” You know, smart people, and well brought up, who really want what is best for everyone.
Somehow this keeps failing and the monkey brain keeps insisting it shouldn’t. And we keep being baffled by it. “Perhaps we need the right people and the right ideology to train them in, an ideology that foreswears private property and makes the world sing in perfect harmony – oh wait, that’s coca cola – and makes everyone share everything and be nice to each other.
And yet, communism, has not only filled the graves with hundreds of millions of innocent lives, who did nothing to deserve it, it has also brought about the world’s worst living misery AND succeed in establishing the old dynastic monarchies in the shape of Kim’s and the Castros and others.
So – to quote an old communist – what is to be done?
Why does this keep happening?
Most of us have never got to be rulers of the world. But we have all got to work in groups. And ultimately, even a totalitarian government is a group. Any group of humans from the smallest work group in your local high school falls prey to the fact that we’re monkeys, and monkeys wish to establish dominance structures.
I remember my shock in high school when I found that the people in my work group were not in the least interested in turning in a good project. Oh, no. They were interested, instead, in showing each other who was boss. And every female in the fargin group would decide I was the person to beat. Say it was an English Translation group, tasked with translating a story from Portuguese to English. I’d calmly point out to the female tossing her hair and blowing out air from both nostrils that no, I wasn’t going to write in French Friends for French Fries. The answer would not be to look it up in the idioms list and confirm I was right, it would be “You’re not the owner of this group. I want that there. Am I not a part of this group? And why are they called French anyway? That’s just stupid. Potatoes aren’t French. You’re always putting crap like that in, because you think you’re so smart.”
And heaven have mercy on our souls if this chick was actually pretty and there was a male in the group, because he’d immediately take up his lance for the lady fair.
Think of any government as the same thing. You might go in as the most ethical person who ever lived, but after sustaining ten or twenty or a hundred of this type of assaults, you’re going to go “Screw that. I’ll keep power, because you guys are all crazy.”
The problem with this is that by then you’re likely also crazy.
And then there’s of course the inherent problem of communism, which is supposed to equalize things by identifying the deserving who aren’t getting enough. Note the subjective things. Who are the deserving? And what is enough?
The Kulaks were after all small farmers, and pretty damn poor by OUR standards, but they were deemed to have too much and to stand in the way of fair distribution and into the grave they must go.
SOMEONE must decide. The person who climbs to the top in this type of system is the sort of person who by nature thinks they know better than everyone else, even when this is demonstrably true. And the top in this case is not just the dictator spot but every node in the bureaucracy.
Then there’s the fact that these people arrogate to themselves the right to decide what’s best for people they don’t know and whom they’ve never seen. Given the plain weirdness of my body and how it reacts to things – no, really? Carbs make me break out in eczema? – and that’s before you throw in far worse weirdness like my husband who gets put to sleep by caffeine and gets wired by codeine… who ARE these people to think they know what I should do and eat, and when I should be treated or not?
I have bad news for the panel of doctors who, 17 years ago declared my case to be both baffling and beyond hope (I had atypical intra-cellular pneumonia.) They said I’d be in again within days, when I insisted on leaving the hospital, and also that I wouldn’t survive another year. Well, I’m still here, and the body though not working well… is working. Because I left, and because I took enough anti-biotics to clear the thing away, even though they said it wouldn’t work, because it hadn’t worked, because….
These were doctors who were working directly with me. They were grievously wrong.
Do I want a panel of bureaucrats who’ve never seen me deciding I shouldn’t have whatever it is I need to survive?
The more government grabs, the more it becomes like group work, and we should all be French Friends, only not French because that’s stupid and potatoes are not French.
And this is all ignoring the fact that no, life isn’t perfect and we all have differing amounts of drive and talent. However, if you let people work for what they conceive to constitute their happiness, they will work hard enough to enrich even those who don’t work. No, not to the same level. Humans aren’t eggs, all alike and perfectly unmarked. No, the ones who are poorer don’t “deserve” better. Oh, they might, some of them, on a case by case basis. BUT they don’t deserve it JUST because they’re poor. That just creates an incentive to be poor. But in a society where people can keep the fruits of their labors (Ah!) then those who are able and willing work hard enough that even the poorest in the society are better off. No? Compare your local working poor to middle age peasants (living in a system that confiscated earnings based on birth, if not on equality.) Oh, heck, I’ll spot you one. Compare your working poor to the kings of the Middle Ages. Rich beyond the dreams of avarice. And that’s our poor. By historical standards. (And I know whence I speak. Reading history when I was little, I considered myself immensely wealthy, living in an unheated stone house, with the bathroom outside the back door and eating mostly the local produce and meat on Sundays. Oh, heck, I had FIVE outfits.)
Yes, there will be injustices: the mother left with a brood of children, working till she drops to keep them decently; the man who for some reason never gets ahead, and works in obscurity until he dies when his worth is realized; the artists who are never discovered; the person who is cheated out of all he owns.
Except that a top down system doesn’t cure any of that. It just makes them endemic. How could it be else, when it’s administered by bureaucrats working at cross purposes with each other and often with no view at all to the people they affect?
No? Then what possessed a government HERE to close monuments that don’t need government employees to run? What except to keep their power?
This, this, if nothing else is sufficient demonstration that they certainly don’t need more power.
A small government that lets individuals make choices on what constitutes their happiness is the only answer.
As much as it might offend bureaucrats and feminists, it might constitute that poor single mother’s happiness to work herself to a bone in order to bring her kids up right? No? How do you know? I know many in her position who felt just that way. Would a self-actualizing lifestyle be better? For whom? You perhaps, but then don’t come whining to me about the anomie and lack of purpose of modern life. Some of us find our purpose and happiness in others. Not your cup of tea? Then don’t drink.
In cases like that government subsidies just rob the person of purpose and happiness.
An, but we get French Friends because “it’s my work too, and I want to have my hand in it.” (Stompy foot.)
If that’s the kind of system you like, then you definitely want the right people in charge, and you also think you’re the right people. Full speed ahead and damn the mass graves.
If you’re not…
If you’re not you might start suspecting that though a lot of nonsense has been spoken about the occasion of sin (possibly because the poor serpent is inherently phallic) what that ancient serpent whispered in the woman’s ear in the fabled garden was “This Earth could be a paradise. If only we had the right people in charge.”