Saturday, 22 January 2005

Statism and the like

A couple of posts from Samizdata to consider. First:

This is yet another part of moving Britain into the more Napoleonic traditional in which the state is the core around which everything rotates in a politicised fashion and the highest virtue is political engagement (not a view I share, to put it mildly, given my view of politics).
A friend and I were discussing the low voter participation rate the other day. He’s from a foreign country—one that has not experienced liberal democracy yet—and was astounded by our low voter participation rate. He also sees the Iraqi election as being hopeful with a high participation rate. I mentioned that we have been an established democracy for centuries and there’s a tendency to take it for granted after a while. I also mentioned that there are a lot of people that shouldn’t vote because they don’t follow the issues.

I should have mentioned another point: though I’m a political junkie, as with the Samizdata quote above, I’m not too keen on the idea of having the world rotate around politics. It’s good that most people don’t have to make public policy a priority and can focus on their families and other interests. It’s a sign of our health as a nation.

An extension of the earlier quote, from another post:

When the state, as distinct from any political party, takes on the role of encouraging people to have the correct views and oppose the right habits, the liberty of everyone is made immediately more precarious. There is a very great supply of petty nannies with a favoured cause, and altogether more dangerous authoritarians and social engineeers with their own pet projects, who would love to get their hands on the power the NHS is now abusing. Rest assured, they will find ways of doing so if the precedent now being set is not reversed.
Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of material related to this idea, and I’m always reminded of the great C.S. Lewis quote:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
So true, and one of the reasons I’m glad that many of my fellow citizens are not fixated on politics, or even become quite angry when others try to lecture them on it. Three cheers for complacency!!


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.

I think it comes from the fact that very few people raise their children to be true, autonomous, fully-developed adults. So, these people spend their lives always hoping and expecting, in the back part of their minds, for mommy or daddy to come along and solve their problems for them. Government makes a pretty good mom-substitute.

You then have positions of power and control. No matter how good or noble the intentions, or the first person to occupy the position, it will become a magnet for those who wish to exercise power and control.

Throw in the innate heirarchical nature of humans and there you are!

I’ve always wanted a small government that’s mostly framework. Let society and culture dominate. The problem with that is that change is slow and tends to succumb to human nature. That’s why social-utopia engineers so love government. It allows them to enforce change. There are good sides to this—racial and gender equity in voting—and bad—the modern public school system. It’s also why government-types are so usually anti-religion: churches are a competing power / social control nexus. Or, as in Europe, they subsume church into government, then weaken the religious impulse and transfer it to government.

Ah, sorry….such a fertile topic.


Not a problem—good comments all!


Interesting post. Every election there is always the handwringing about low voter turnout and how this apparently bodes ill for the American republic. But I’ve had my doubts about this conventional wisdom. These people who are not voting are also people who do not see the winning and exercising of political power as the most important thing. They are therefore not a threat to the free society. Rather the real threat comes from those who are driven to acquire power.

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