September 8, 2012
Liberals' Goal - Improving SocietyBy Jim Gammon
On the surface, a goal of improvement is a good one. Who can argue that making something or someone better is a bad thing? Isn't better better?
But in government, it frequently isn't. All too often, "improving society" involves changes that result in dehumanizing society. Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all were motivated by the desire to create a perfect society. They saw powerful government as the way to fix the problems in human society.
Of course such efforts have never, ever worked -- simply because "utopia" is contrary to human nature.
The Greeks invented democracy to solve the problems that big, strong governments created. Humans have tried many forms of government, and few people with a historical perspective deny that America, operating under a system of laws (a republic) with a democratically elected and limited government, is the most successful design yet.
The more liberal-minded people always claim that society could always be even better if the government would just make a few changes. The conservative view is that more government is not the answer to societies' woes.
But we humans never seem to leave well enough alone. When they have the best they can get, people always think there must be some way to make it even better. Striving for more, for improvement, is a human virtue, but this virtue is misdirected when it comes to empowering a government that wants to change things in the name of improvement, without really considering the results beforehand. The law of unexpected consequences comes to mind -- nothing ever turns out as you expect it to.
An example: in an industry I know of, there is a specification for a piece of equipment. The details are irrelevant, but it is a important item. A standards committee wrote a standard for the performance of this device, working with the manufacturers and users. Equipment made to this new standard worked very well.
The problem is that every five years, the specification comes up for review. The members of the committee (members change every few years) feel the need to "improve" this standard, if only to justify their own existence -- and maybe to satisfy their egos. The specification has therefore been "improved" every five years, but it never needed any improvement!
The result? The price keeps going up, as necessitated by the manufacturers having to redesign and then requalify the equipment every five years. Users have to replace perfectly good equipment every five years. The older equipment that works just fine is "not to the current standard," and therefore, from a legal point of view, it is unsafe.
This sort of illogic can be followed through the history of nations as well. Let's just look at poverty. Just fifty years ago, poverty in the USA was pretty much the same thing as poverty anywhere -- insufficient food, clothing, and shelter. But today, poverty in the USA is defined quite differently from how poverty in virtually any other country is understood. Even government aid or assistance is now redefined as an "entitlement."
America is the only country in the world where the destitute have an obesity problem.
Now no one will deny that those without food, clothing, and shelter should receive aid, but are these things "rights"? Not if they're absent from the Constitution, and not if they fail to appear in the Amendments. So why not propose, then, that these ostensible "rights" be included in the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution? The answer is simple: most Americans would not support such a change, and that means that our government is forcing changes upon society we don't agree with.
Therein lies the difference between political philosophies. Some seek to impose "utopia" upon us, and others feel that such changes will make things worse, not better -- because humans are not designed to live in a utopian society.
Hey -- we're dealing with humans. We humans are more clever than intelligent. We don't often avoid mistakes or learn very well from history. We don't anticipate problems in advance; we figure out ways around them.
Human nature is also to be considerate and generous, and this should be encouraged, not discouraged. But utopian society discourages generosity.
People are people. My goal here is not to bash or celebrate humans, but to point out that, realistically, utopia is not something humans will ever achieve or should achieve. We need challenges and goals. We need to have a reason to work hard; it's good for us. It is in our design. We need to achieve.
In the past, charity was always defined as a major human virtue. Most people were generous toward those in need; others were not. (But even the hardest rich person usually found a way, even if it was on his deathbed and came down to seeking redemption, of sharing his wealth in some way.)
Charity is a great virtue -- being charitable makes you feel good, and accepting charity is something most people accept when they need it but tend to find demeaning unless they are in dire need. This is human nature.
But big government seeks to control too much, to include charity. In the final analysis, welfare, food stamps, and all other forms of government handouts are charity -- not from the government, but taken (by threat of punishment) from other citizens. This is forced charity, and there is little positive effect. People don't feel good about paying their taxes, and those on the public dole are less likely to feel guilty, especially when politicians use the word "entitlement" instead of "charity." There is on one and no charity or church to feel a indebted to.
When a hurricane hits and charities are unable to answer the need, the government can provide essential services. This is not charity; it is protection.
A government that removes the positives from charity is a bad government. Government-run utopia simply cannot ever be reached; it is contrary to human nature. Those who have no goal, no purpose, no need to work...don't. This screws up their self-respect and dehumanizes them.
The real difference between political philosophies is in objectivity. Realistically, we will never have utopia, and we all know that deep down inside. We cannot achieve what is beyond human nature to achieve. We must appeal to the best of human nature and accept what humans need -- a reason to work, succeed, and have the self-respect of knowing that they have value.
We cannot change human nature.
Humans need challenges. They need competition. They perform best with teamwork. They are driven to excel, to win, to achieve more, to know more, or be smarter or better than the next guy/gal. All these things are absent from liberal utopia. We need goals. We need freedom to be our best.
Government should always be as good as we can make it. It should serve and protect us, create a level playing field, and prevent abuse. Its role should not be to define society, so any "improvements" should be limited to improving that government, not redesigning our society.
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