Back to Basics: Essay Two in the series, Lighten the Load
by Steve Cook
I assume each one of us would prefer to have a government that works honestly in our interests and at the very least does not give us a hard time, which means a government that truly serves all the people.
Clearly we do not have that kind of government right now. They may be working in someone’s interests but those interests, self-evidently are not ours: I doubt that many people would conclude that escalating debt and taxes and an environment growing less safe by the day are outcomes we would consider desirable.
But what do we want from government? What should it do, how should it act and what would be a desirable outcome from its efforts?
Is it possible to go back to the drawing board and figure out what a government that really works in the interests of all the people would look like?
I know of no government on planet Earth whose origins do not derive from the effort of some clique or other of the “Very Best People” to at least prioritize their own interests. Thus, every government starts out with a serious flaw built into it, so far as the rest of us are concerned.
The problem with dreaming up one’s “ideal government” is that the chap who dreams it up usually has a vested interest of some kind and that tends to slant the outcome. It may be ideal so far as he is concerned but what about everybody else?
Ideally then, someone with no vested interests should have a bash at figuring out where we go from here with this thing called “government” and try to come up with some fresh ideas that are a bit more acceptable than what we have right now.
God knows, somebody has better do it, and soon! The world is crying out for an improvement in the basic design because the current models just aren’t cutting it.
Some might say that such things should be left to the experts.
What experts? Look around you. Look at the tax system and the forms you have to fill in. Look at the scarcity of money that obliges everyone and his cousin to live his life with a ton of debt on his shoulders. Look at the recessions that “nobody knew” how to avert.” Look at the anarchy that prevails among nations. Look at the bewildering morass of laws which turns justice into a minefield that requires lawyers you can’t afford to guide you though it. Look at the drugs epidemic, the illiteracy epidemic, the crime epidemic, the mental illness epidemic, the good men denied work and the kids with no future.
This is the work of experts?
One would, in fact, be hard pressed to come up with ideas worse than the turbulent, half-baked mish-mash with which we are presently lumbered.
Well, I’m happy to tell you that I am not one of the “Very Best People.”
I do not have millions of bucks – or in fact any bucks – riding on the success of some industry or other; I do not think that all men are dirty dogs in need of my whip hand; I do not thirst for the adoration of the masses, nor do I crave to see my ugly mug on every billboard in sight. But I do have a vested interest: I’d like my fellow man to do all right.
One does not survive so well when the world is in turmoil and the people around one are cowed, bewildered and upset. And, believe me, I want to survive!
Mind you, if you expect me to come up with some perfect solution to all our problems, you are going to wait until the cows come home.
Nobody thus far has ever come up with a perfect political system and I doubt if anyone ever will, especially not one man sitting at a typewriter.
There is no presumption or pretence here that one is going to present the keys to the Promised Land or solve all Man’s problems for him with a sweep of a magic wand, the presentation of stone tablets inscribed with the forged hand of the Almighty or exhortations of the “let us do your thinking for you and all your troubles will be over, slave!” variety.
The problem is we’ve had plenty of “solutions” of the magic wand, slavery-is-freedom or the-Promised-Land-is-just-around-the-corner brand. They don’t work.
Solutions to the problem of organizing large numbers of human beings have so often been presented as if they were perfect and then held rigidly in place thereafter with the death-like grip of the terminally stupid when they turned out not to be so perfect after all. And then a lot of people have gotten themselves killed, locked up or lobotomized when they have had the temerity to suggest that maybe the “perfect” solution could be improved on a bit.
We are looking, then, for something that does not lock us into a fixed solution from which we will have a devil of a job extricating ourselves if we do not find it entirely to our liking. Something that has its own quality control, that can detect and correct errors and respond to changing circumstances and utilise new ideas and discoveries.
Just as a child is quite capable of learning to stand on his own two feet so long as you refrain from shoving him over every time he tries to stand up, human beings are quite capable of solving their own problems if other humans beings desist from rigging the game so they can’t.
We want to take off some of the stops and lift the burden that has been placed on your shoulders by centuries of deviousness and skulduggery and of the mend-and-make-do that is the inevitable consequence of trying to make work something that is inherently flawed.
Then you’ll do the rest.
We are looking for some workable common-sense principles that honest men of good will can find tolerable and acceptable, that enshrine basics upon which they can agree and which to the maximum attainable degree allow people to get on with their lives in freedom without being messed about by crazy people.
Ideally, a decent government should be a self-correcting system. It should have built into it procedures for smoothly detecting and correcting its own errors because, yes, people are going to make mistakes now and then.
And let us not forget either that there will always be men of ill will waiting in the wings to hijack anything decent that good men do manage to put together – the democracy of the United States being a case in point. Some way of routinely keeping criminal elements out of government, preferably before they manage to wreck the whole thing, will also be needed. This point is a vital one because the machinations of such criminal vested interests are the primary reason that every effort to build a world of freedom for good people has always ended in tears and disappointment.
We need a system that can evolve into an improved condition as experience is accumulated, rather than merely, as governments do at the moment, go on making the same mistakes over and over and deteriorate until they die – or people get fed up with them and kill them.
We do not need another totalitarianism either: these are the dumbest of all solutions to problems of human coordination; the record of such efforts is so appalling one is surprised there is anyone who still advocates them.
I have started from two premises: that the sanest governance has always derived from the efforts of free men; and that a philosophy of government, if it is to be of use to all honest men of good will, and not merely some privileged few, should have the following qualities:
- It should not be complex or confusing and should be based upon fundamentals that all men can observe for themselves.
- It should be based upon reason.
- It should be comprehensible to all people of average intelligence.
- It should be driven by an honest attempt to help one’s fellow man, and not merely a device to get someone or some vested interest group into a position of control over everybody else.
One might also add that if one is going to come up with such a thing, one must first disagree with things being as they are and disagree with the notion that they must always be that way.
Well, I for one disagree with people being shoved around, told what to think, lied to, messed about, stolen from, intimidated, used as pawns, cannon fodder or slaves and generally treated as if they were cattle.
And I disagree with the idea that there is no other way humanity can organize itself other than on the basis of a herdsman over the herd and that we are stuck with that ghastly scenario from now until Doomsday.
Perhaps the problem with government as we have come to know and endure it, is that it starts from the premise that people are cattle. But what would happen if government started from a different premise entirely?
Okay, so let us start by getting down to the basic of all basics, a fundamental self-evident simplicity from which we can construct a useful philosophy of government . . .
Next in this series: Survive!
Previous: Lighten the Load Essay One
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