Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Government Is Not a Magic Box

By Barry Rubin

One of today's biggest political and intellectual problems is the concept of “government” as an institution outside human logic, society, and reality. We are told that more power to the government is a solution; that more money to the government is an absolute good; that more regulation from the government is a font of virtue; and that the government is a knight in shining honor and protector of the downtrodden.

It is possible to show the flaw in this argument within sixty seconds. A number of great philosophers—including the founders of the United States—have done so. Here is the single paragraph necessary to understand the  issue:

“Government” is comprised of people. These human beings are often no better, and often worse than average people. Government and its specific agencies have their own goals and their way of functioning have built-in shortcomings (bureaucratic rigidity, indifference to the money and lives of others, lust for the accumulation of power, etc.) Thus, to say that government as a whole and its parts have no interests of their own is not true. The government is not a solution to all things—a kind of secular god--but a party with its own selfishness, goals, and negative aspects. Consequently, citizens must guard against its usurpation of their liberty, wealth, and objectives.

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This issue is so important yet doesn’t receive the needed attention. Children are being systematically educated in ignorance of this point; about half the population never hears it nowadays.

The government is made up of people. Human beings are imperfect. They are subject to a range of behavior that includes ambition, arrogance, bullying, corruption, cravenness, dictatorial tendencies, greed, inability to understand others' needs or viewpoints, lack of imagination, being controlled by a specific caste for that group's own selfish interests, among many other traits.

Once when Lucy van Pelt handed Charlie Brown, of the "Peanuts" comic strip, a long list of his faults, Charlie replied, “These aren’t faults, this is my personality,” or something to that effect.

Government, then, is not a referee but just another special-interest group.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

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