Archives for posts with tag: state

Culture is to human communities what DNA is to biological species.

It transports vital information from one generation to the other. Hence providing a venue for survival.
Furthermore, both culture and DNA can change in time. Hence providing a venue for evolution.

The difference between culture and DNA being, of course, the fact that culture is way more fluid than DNA.
DNA changes only once for each generation – what you get at birth is what you’re taking to the grave, while culture is in constant flux.
No individual organism has anything to say about their genetic information but almost every human is capable of learning almost anything.

Now for the historical part.

Stage one.

Veneration of the elders. The elders were the depositories of the common knowledge. Hence everybody took good care of the ‘data bases’.

Stage two.

Somebody learned to write.
Elders were no longer indispensable. More and more information could be ‘warehoused’ in alternative ways.
A structure was needed to manage the new ways of dealing with the vital information.

Stage three.

The state is born.
At first the structures which insured that culture was passed from one generation to another had been rather empiric: kingdoms, monasteries, etc.
Soon after the Enlightenment things had become more rational. Cultured people became nations and the academic scholars gave us the state. As the structure charged to make sure that culture and people stay together. Hence providing for the nation’s survival.

States who had been in constant contact – read rivalry, kept each-other fit. Or else.
States ‘removed’ from reality – geographically, by becoming too powerful to care or both, had experienced a natural decay. The people at the top of the food chain had forgotten about those at the bottom and those at the bottom had lost faith in their leadership.

States too weak to survive – for various reasons, have succumbed while those too powerful for their own sake have eventually imploded.

Psychology to the rescue.

Culture is more fluid than DNA for a reason.
DNA follows exclusively the laws of nature while culture is heavily influenced by us.
We, men, are the measure of all things.
All life heavily transforms the place it inhabits.
So do we, humans. Only we do it willingly. On purpose, that is.

Now, that we have amassed so much information – about life in general and about how we relate, as agents, to the entire process, we have reached a reckoning moment. What next?

Are we going to choose the path of the cuckoo or that shown to us by Hokule-a?

This is probably the biggest bone of contention between the conventional sides of the political spectrum.

The conventional right claims that we’d be a lot happier with a considerably smaller government while the conventional left would, if left to its own devices, transform the government into a huge, and ‘smothering’, nanny.

Is there any reasonable way of determining the right size of the government or we should just try to reach a compromise between the warring factions?

I don’t think I’m smart enough to determine how big a government should be.
I also dislike the very concept of compromise – if I have to settle something I prefer to negotiate instead of compromising.
And that’s is why I’d rather approach this problem from another angle.

What KIND of government!

Let me take you on a short, and very condensed, historical ride.

Basically humankind has used, somewhat alternatively, two systems of running things.

Authoritarianism and democracy.

Specifics do not matter much. If decision making was centralized it was authoritarianism, if decisions were made by those directly affected by the results of those decisions being put in practice it was democracy.

What’s really important here is the fact that those two different manners of decision making generated different forms of government.

Authoritarian regimes employed ‘administrative’ (meaning ‘directorial’) forms of government while democracies were served by ‘referential’ forms of government.
And it was only natural that things happened this way.
Authoritarian regimes need nothing more than a ‘transmission belt’ to convey orders from the very top to the base of the social pyramid while democracies need a team of referees to keep the playing field level and nothing more than that.

Of course that I’m presenting a very simple sketch here. Things are more complicated than that.

And there are at least two main complications. ‘Human greed’ and ‘international relations’.

It doesn’t really matter if that greed is for money of for power. Whenever greedy individuals are allowed to enter the government and to cater for their ‘special needs’ things are headed south. And the only difference between this situation occurring in a democracy or under an authoritarian regime is that the latter has no natural defense against this kind of ‘mishaps’.

‘International relations’ play a less obvious role. The main job a government has to fulfill is to keep the state together. If a hypothetical state would exist in a vacuum – and have no neighbors, things would be a lot simpler. Since in the real world states do have neighbors the governments have to organize armies, secret services, engage in arms races…
Also in the real world states are very different. In size, for instance.

For all these reasons it’s very hard to ‘calculate’ the ‘proper’ size of a government.

Specially so without defining clearly what’s expected from that government.
An authoritarian regime would ask the government to preserve the privileges of those at the helm of the regime while a truly democratic minded people would expect their government to safeguard, using legitimate means, the independence of their country on the international level while simultaneously making sure that the individual members of that people enjoy enough personal autonomy so that their political regime remains democratic.

After those expectations are clearly formulated, the size of the government will simply be a consequence…

 

I came across this extremely interesting article about Hitler being a socialist.

After making his point, impeccably, Daniel Hannan – the author – ends up with: “My beef with many (not all) Leftists is a simpler one. By refusing to return the compliment, by assuming a moral superiority, they make political dialogue almost impossible. Using the soubriquet “Right-wing” to mean “something undesirable” is a small but important example.”

To me this article is nothing but another reminder that the the only reasonable alternative to any extremism is the living center, not the dead opposite extremism.

Every time that the functional equilibrium between the content (because of their affluence, carelessness or both) and the strugglers (people who are on a constant quest for new solutions, irrespective of their motivation) has been breached things tended to become rather ugly before coming back towards normalcy.
Just compare how people around the Mediterranean sea used to live during the four centuries straddling AD 1 with what happened during the next millennium, otherwise known as the Dark Ages.
Why? Just because the Roman emperors used ‘panem et circensis’ as their main political concept and the population obliged. Until things went so far that the whole empire failed abysmally…
Same things happened before the French Revolution and before Lenin and Hitler came to power in Russia and Germany, respectively. Nowadays it is currently happening in Russia and the huge gap between the oligarchs and the modern muzhiks is the sole explanation I need for how come Putin has such a stronghold on the Russian people – he is keeping both categories happy by feeding their imagination with dreams about the Greater Russia and their bellies full with the money he gets from selling oil and natural gas.
For people on both sides of the political spectrum to restart a real dialogue all of them need to understand that the other side has legitimate concerns too.
Nowadays most on the left insist on ‘equality’ while most on the right speak of nothing but ‘individual freedom’. And both of them blame the state. The left accuses the government for not doing enough to promote the sacrosanct ‘equality’ while the right blames the state for infringing on the individual’s right to do whatever it wants…  As if equality (of chances) is in anyway different from individual freedom… As if authoritarianism could exist without the guys at the top enjoying a lot  more freedom than those at the bottom of the social ladder… As if functional social order could be maintained without people cooperating among themselves based on mutual respect, said cooperation  having evolved through time and currently reaching the modern form known as “the democratic state”…
I agree with concerned people on the both sides of the divide that the state could, and has indeed in more than one occasions, represent an extremely powerful repression tool in the hands of callous political operators but the answer to this is to make sure that the democratic mechanisms work smoothly, not to thoroughly dismantle the state itself….  Precisely because a skeleton state is a lot more easily highjacked by the ‘political thugs’ than one which has respected and balanced (hence functional) institutions in the right places.
Now please allow me to end my post by extending the invitation made by Daniel Hannan and urge you, all of you, to stop assuming ‘moral superiority’ based exclusively on ideological motives. Ideology is fine but we should never forget that it is nothing but a tool and it is us who do things and are responsible for both our deeds and our fate.
If ideology is diverse enough as to help us see how complex the world really is then we are better off because of it. If, instead, we use our diverse ideologies as filters to shun whatever ‘the others’ are trying to tell us… then it’s curtains for all of us, together at last… but not in the right place.
PS
To read the article – it is brilliant – you can either click on the yellow highlight near the top of my post or here: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100260720/whenever-you-mention-fascisms-socialist-roots-left-wingers-become-incandescent-why/.
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