Monthly Archives: May 2016

Utopia, Do Not Enter

People who claim to know the ultimate, perfected state of society are dangerous maniacs.  This claim is in the same category as perpetual motion and quack cures for cancer, only more dangerous.  The patient may choose his own treatment, but a utopian will foist his delusion on us all.

Obviously, if you are working to bring about paradise on Earth, you have a license to kill.  Utopia is worth any sacrifice of human dignity.

This has been going on from Aristotle to Marx, and the victims never wise up.  When Plato writes about his “philosopher king,” whom do you suppose he has in mind?  We must have the gold people to rule over the bronze people, the shepherds to lead the flock.  That’s right – the flock.  Sheep.

Marx claimed that his utopia was the inevitable result of inexorable “laws of history” that he, alone, had discovered.  LOL.  Gee, Karl, if it’s inevitable, maybe we don’t need to put quite so many people in the gulag!  Utopia probably doesn’t need a barbed wire fence to keep people from escaping.

Perfect societies like Aristotle’s usually depend on a caste system, which the inventor has to justify.  In fairness to Marx, he was hoping for some kind of self-organizing collective.  In practice, though, you get the Party, and the Party rules just like any other despot.

The needs of society outweigh the rights of the individual.

The first thing to consider when you read this stuff – especially if you are reading it in school – is the plight of someone not born into the ruling class.  Would you have any kind of social mobility?  Would you have any free will at all?  Often, the answer is simply “no.”

Individuals exist to serve the greater good.  The metaphor of a beehive is invoked, which sounds lovely until you actually think about it.  Fascists love to say that “the needs of society outweigh the rights of the individual.”  This is great if you are the one implementing the needs of society – not so great for the individual whose rights are outweighed.

Individual freedom must be the basis of any just society.  Beyond that are philosophical questions about where individuals’ rights may conflict, how much power to delegate to the government, etc.  The real work lies in creating institutions that appropriately safeguard the rights of the people, joint and several, and then revising the institutions over time.

This is an incremental, and difficult, process wherein society may improve steadily over time.  Anyone who has worked at it will tell you that “better than before” is sufficiently grand.  Someone claiming to know the ultimate answer is either clinically insane – or a charlatan.

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Allegiance to the Flag

Nationalism is on the march, and not only in America.  Britain wants to leave the EU, and Scotland wants to leave Britain.  Across Europe, nation states are erecting barriers as they come to disagree with immigrations policy made in Brussels.

It’s nice to see the nationalists have their day, if only because the globalists have been on top since the Clinton administration.  To be honest, nationalism has a poor record.  It is associated with ugly tendencies like xenophobia and war.  On the other hand, globalism is the enemy of democracy.

The larger any government’s span of control, the less responsive it is … and the sums available for graft are larger.

You can see undemocratic processes at work today in Brussels and Washington.  Now imagine if the whole world were ruled out of Davos.  The policies go by different names, but globalism is a coherent movement with its own leaders and institutions.  The Council on Foreign Relations thinks that Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. should be a single administrative unit.  That’s no secret.  They published a white paper, and then we got NAFTA.

It is important to understand the tension between globalism and nationalism.  President Obama is on the record as a globalist.  This is why he recently visited London and advocated for Britain to stay in the European Union.  It is also why The Economist always, always labels nationalist parties in Europe as “racist,” “neo-Nazi,” or at least “far right extreme.”

Jeremiah, as you know, eschews labels and generalizations.  There is a balance to be achieved between national sovereignty and global institutions.  Free trade, for example, has lifted millions out of poverty.  Even as Americans have lost jobs and earning power, we have gained access to cheap foreign goods.  The right balance is one struck by negotiation among self-interested leaders of sovereign states.

Democracy works better at smaller scales.  British voters can be reasonably confident of influencing policy in London.  In Brussels, not so much.  Not only immigrations policy, but monetary policy, environmental and trade regulation, and foreign policy are made there, “one size fits all,” for Europe.

The larger any government’s span of control, the less responsive it is.  Leaders are physically more distant, and the sums available for graft are larger.  The right solution is smaller units of government, delegating strictly limited responsibilities to a federal system – kind of like our Constitution.  Does anybody still read that?

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