Thursday, December 30, 2010

Force: Liberals Playing With Fire

First we thought it was just ordinary government incompetence. Now we understand that the slow snow removal in New York City after the Christmas snowstorm was actually a work slowdown organized by the supervisors in the city Sanitation Department. According to reporters for the New York Post:

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts -- a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

The supervisors are upset, apparently, over "a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts."

This shows, in a graphic way, the problem with allowing the government to do anything beyond fighting wars. Everything in government comes down to a power play. You would think that, in an emergency, the natural human instinct to come together would rule over petty interests and bureaucratic battles. But it turns out that in the modern centralized administrative state even the most basic functions of government, the recovery from a natural disaster, ends up sacrificed to the god of political power.

Conservatives and political scientists take note. This is the Achilles heel of our liberal friends. They just don't have a clue that government is force, and politics is power. If you let the government perform some service then it will turn it into a fight.

The great question for mankind, the social animal, is to find out how to limit the brutal cost of force and compulsion. In The Faith Instinct Nicholas Wade tells how, in hunter-gatherer societies, religion played a vital role in reducing the need for force. One strategy is the concept of divine punishment. "In small societies, the person who takes on the role of enforcer exposes himself to general resentment, not to mention retaliation from the miscreant or his relatives." It's usually best to get everyones' agreement and have the miscreant killed by one of his relatives. Alternatively, you can persuade everyone that God will punish miscreants, that God knows everything we do, and will punish misdeeds either in this life or the life to come.

A system of supernatural punishment carries enormous advantages for a primitive society. No one has to assume the thankless taks of meting out punishment and risk being killed by the offender or his relatives; the gods perform this chore willingly and vigilantly.

No legislation is needed. No police force is required. The question that must come to every concerned citizen is: Why do we have the expensive apparatus of legislation, police, courts, jails, and parole officers? And why have we dispensed, in a significant degree, with the notion of divine punishment? In my view, it is because we can afford it. We can afford the enormous expense of the force machine, whereas the primitive society cannot.

But, you may say, can we afford it? Can we save the planet when we are wasting precious resources on policemen, hangmen, and jailers? It's a good question.

Historically, of course, the development of penal institutions have paralleled the attack on divine punishment conducted by our liberal friends. Liberals wanted to do a bunch of things that the gods had traditionally disliked. They wanted to free themselves from social control, particularly on the sex front. Liberal men wanted multiple sexual partners. Liberal women wanted liberation from exploitation by the patriarchs. But the problem is that you can't limit the damage. If the gods don't care about sexual license then what do they care about? And when the gods aren't in control, you have to erect the vast apparatus of government compulsion that is so much a feature of our modern age, and which creates so much resentment among the non-liberal citizenry.

My advice to our liberal friends is to get back to some kind of supernatural punishment system. Maybe Gaia cares so much about the planet that she will punish people for environmental crimes without needing an expensive EPA. And if she cares about saving the planet, maybe she will expand her powers to other important areas of social control.

Either way, it is clear that the more government we have, the more we will place ourselves at the mercy of bloody-minded sanitation workers and their ilk, for whom nothing exists except their selfish needs and the satisfactions of wielding political power.

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