The Case for Rational Governance

This piece is intended to be a rebuttal to a comment to THEGZRA's address, as well as my introduction of myself to all of you.

The last paragraph of my consideration of THEGZRA's address was, I admit, pretty shameful. Not entirely valueless, it spoke to truths which I do hold, yet offered little by way of rationale for those truths; little to convince anyone who does not think so, that these things are true.

The truth in question is: a government is essential to the maintenance of a free society.

But it is absolutely crucial that I am precise in the statement of this truth. This is
not to say that a government is, by virtue of its being a government, superior to achieving the ends of liberty than no government at all. The falsity of this statement is indicated by the success in derailing the freedom of its society achieved by Nazi Germany, communist Russia, China, and, though to a considerably lesser degree, the United States Government in the 20th century. Nothing, in truth, would have been better than Hitler or the rest.

What I mean in asserting this truth is: there is a particular schema of governance that does only to further the ends of man's liberty, and without which Man is doomed to fight for his very life, against atrophy, decay, the unreasoning criminal leeching of other men through force or fraud, against entropy, against nature.

Still, this comes with a gross caveat, which will make sense when this schema is described. Such a government that fits the scheme, but is not possessed of the philosophy that guided the scheme's writing, will have no power to defend men from these things, as without the shining light of this philosophy, it is itself, against force and fraud, against corruption, against coercion, against the unreasoning criminal aggression of the men of other nations, indefensible.

The atrocities, the acts of merely dubious moral nature perpetrated by such a government as fits the scheme at present under discussion, the unabashed, open erosion of liberty achieved by the United States government in the 20th century, is not a consequence of this government's organization, any more so than it is a consequence of its scale. THEGZRA writes: "Those who cite human nature inevitably refer to actions deeply opposed to said nature." This is a remarkably astute observation, most certainly incognizant of the manner in which it was cited by me in my original response. Yet it speaks to what is the cause of the failure of a government, in principle (read: on paper) dedicated to the men it governs, to remain so, being the aforementioned desertion of philosophy, or its hijacking.

I spoke of the Aristotelian essence of Man, in hope of reintroducing a descriptive idea of human nature, an answer to the question: "What is Man, and how does he remain so?" Of the effects of pre- or perscriptive answers to this question, THEGZRA is, plainly, acutely aware. The problem with the latter two forms of answer is: it can be prescribed only by other men, and will, in accordance with the descriptive answer, be written only to achieve the ends of "someone else." THEGZRA describes the descriptive answer when he talks of "quixotic stumbles towards perfection," though he does so pessimistically.

What is man, and how does he remain so? The answer I am about to give may appear too radical and obvious at the same time, but I assure you that it is the absolute and final truth on the subject. Man is a rational animal. He is a form of meat and blood and bone, as are the other animals, but where their means of living are hard-wired into them, in the form of instinct, or bolted on, in the form of morphological selected-for advantages, Man's body, by itself, and any unthinking action it can undertake, leaves him sorely ill-equipped against Nature. Yet men, over nature, reign supreme. Why? Because he lives by his mind.

Where his hands fail him, he builds hammers to add to their weight. Where the reach of his arms fall short, he builds bows and guns and conveyor belts. Where his legs cannot carry him, he builds machines that carry him farther than he could hope to carry himself. And when the requirements of speed exceed those speeds which are possible on land, he takes to the sky, and to the stars. And all of it he does with nothing given to him at birth, save a mind. When the freedom of each man to accomplish these things, and others, by his own mind and effort, is quite correctly recognized as being not hard-wired into Nature, but requires the control, manipulation, dominance, and consumption of that part of nature of which Man is not a part, men who live by their mind institute a government, not to grant to men that which Nature cannot grant them, but to defend what, of Nature, Men can claim by right, as corollary to that right of existence which all men do claim, whether openly or not, against the rest of Nature, and against those corruptions of Nature achieved by men who are able to act against their own, described nature.

And this is precisely why it is imperative that any government not depart from its philosophy. Without a clear and precise understanding of Nature, Human and otherwise, governments has no ends, only means, in the very best cases, and only corrupt ends in the worst. Here, I preach to the choir. A government based in the ideals which you so correctly repudiate, is a wicked, evil thing, which must be resisted. A government which operates under the rule of law, deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed, however, can be the crowning achievement of man's mastery of nature and his victory over the irrational.


TheGrza said...

There are two arguments you set forth, Will, and I will tackle them in turn.

First, you began your statement by listing the roundly accepted failures of the governing process. I wish you would have instead listed the long canon of successful states, those who didn't stand on the backs of murdered children and slaves, exploiting their own people, cynically manipulating whatever "rights" they have been granted up to that moment for the gain of the powerful. That would be quite a list, like one of those paintings of a spotless cow bathing in a porcelain dish of milk. Or, to put it another way, lacking any defensible governments, from where arises this defense?

There are two flaws in the foundation of Statist philosophy that you seem to ignore. First, that rights, Natural borne as you assume they may be (they're not by the way, but more on that later), can be known and if so listed and if so remain unrestricted. Any ideal government would simply be the process, you mentioned that clown Aristotle, now it's my turn, of enumeration, legalism, codification, any word you need or all three. The listing of that which the state will protect lists that which you assume is to be known by all, and limits it specifically to those which the state will protect. Inevitably, either the state neglects to protect that which is not enumerated (see the only genius moment of our own constitution, the 9th amendment and then consider the Mayberry quality it evokes, a chalky, unpaved street, a sense of picket fences and oh-aren't-they-cute-with-their-heady-enlightenment naivete, and a dank sickness when it dawns that the very men who had the minds to conceive of such a rule would violate it as they signed it into law).

The second fallacy of Statism is a faith that the State doesn't require coercion. A belief that rights should be protected and the concurring belief that someone else should protect them requires the logically consistent maxim it is wrong to have your rights swamp anothers. In order to enforce such a maxim, you require organizations to enforce said law upon those who do not accept it. If governments could exist only over those who would consent to be governed, criminality could run free in a dark small-a anarchy and so you loose the twin cannons of Police Force and Military might upon those what would coerce you, eye for and eyeing up the whole situation into moral small-a anarchy swamping the rights and freedoms in your mad rush to uphold them a la the United States of America.

And it isn't scale which creates societal superstructures. Look at Small Town America, relatively unmolested by the National concerns and lacking the extreme bureaucracy, yet somehow brimming with overeager police, prosecutors and judiciaries all too willing to step on freedoms and civil protections to maintain an iron-fisted authoritarianism gripped by an oligarchy of business and civic leaders (the successful ones you so laud, despite their monopolies and Iron Eagles).

An aside here. I don't actually think we differ too much on the Political side of this equation. We are both treading the fine line between the silliness of Utopian Philosophy and High Ideals but we are close enough to the U word to invoke its greatest fallacy. Both your belief and my belief end up very close to each other, the end result being of absolute or near absolute personal freedom based in a reverence for the individual and his mighty power. I would even wager that if the magical Unicorn of Government Reform were to grant us each our own ideal states, we would enjoy pleasant stays in each other's kingdoms and good diplomatic relations would flower between the two very like-minded states, hell we may even have summer homes...this has gone too far, let's get back to the point. The only way we would differ is method and while you have pointed out that isn't insignificant, that method and intent are a contributing force (I know you hate Kantian Ethics, but it works) toward the failures of the modern state, if any man can achieve perfection in any system, my applause will be scarcely hampered by a methodology flaw. Therefore, in your dissent regarding the necessity of a Government to achieve the same ends as I propose, I would ask how is your hope for men's restraint in the seat of power, a nearly laughable impossibility, is somehow less remote than my hope that we could stop killing each other and abusing the weaker, the less fortunate, the momentarily beset-upon, a goal we achieve or very nearly on a daily basis (My Bangladeshi sewn underpants aside)?

To the deeper, and I would argue more interesting point. Your belief in Man and is escape from nature is incredibly dubious. That man cannot flee from nature is only so obvious when he will, through ignorance or selfish short-sightedness destroy his water and food supplies with noxious chemicals of his own "ingenious" design, only so obvious when his life-giving sun will explode, or his encompassing universe snaps in on itself and/or every particle expands so far from any other particle that we see the deep blue corona of heat death crush the last breath from the most brilliant race ever (seriously, if we last to heat death, we kick ass). It will end and any pretense otherwise is quasi-religious contortion of the foreseeable future and all the facts at hand to fit a narrow world view that Human Beings are some sacred commodity with mystical notions and rights guaranteed by some creator (be it an objective reality or God Almighty). Human beings aren't anything but a wavelength in a time line.

And yet, even if we were able to maneuver our way out of our solar system and eventually our universe, Nature's knowing grin will emerge and evolution, the true nature of man and all other animals, will rear its ugly head and your precious human being will be nothing but a memory, our glorious triumphs amounting to mysterious vestigial organs and a few minor steps toward the new species, henceforth known as the Psuedopedal Mindbots. These Mindbots, however Rational, cannot escape the fact that they are the results and live at the whim of Nature. There is a note of backtracking you might have noticed above, specifically regarding my opinions about "God-Given Rights" or your "Natural Rights". I do, and always have believed that they exist but not with the metaphysical faith I presuppose. My faith in an absolute is the soil for my opinion, but the fact that rights exist has nothing to do with Natural, supernatural, or otherwise. These rights exist because I take them. My right to think, my right to be, my right to speak, all are contingent upon my use of them and my ability to get away with it. Where is your Natural Right to Life when Nature herself so cruelly takes it from you? Where is your right to speak when someone calls their boss a cocksucker or tells the president he will be the next to die? It is as we get away with it, when we fight for it, that our rights continue to flourish, not in the intervening spineless seconds where we cower with fear of judgement and retribution, and nothing but personal conviction in these ideals and rights grows from Reason, God or Objective Reality.

And this, this, with precision is the imperative. Man must be returned to his glorious organic origins, the law of nature and his own entirely individualistic properties, free to commune with whomever and how many we wishes but also free to run naked through the wild, expressing with every evolving strand of his DNA the love of Nature and the freedoms her wild world has created, as well as the inability of another to infringe upon him by the sheer scale of his own isolation.

TheGrza said...

Sorry it took so long to respond, I had a lot to write and very little internet to do it with.

A. Henry Rearden said...

1. Mastery of nature, not "escape from."
2. No, we are not just "wavelengths in a timeline," a man's life is his by right, and I don't need God to be in order for this to be so, his life, and this right, was never "given" to him, any more than value is "given" to a commodity.
3. No, a state doesn't require coercion, it is Statists that require it. A just government has laws written against Statists who might hijack the State (like ones that begin "Congress shall make no law . . ."). I'm not pretending Mao was wrong when he named the source of political power, I'm saying that when it has the right philosophy behind it, it can only do good. And this isn't "no true Scotsman," because I know what philosophy in particular it is -- and so does everyone, exactly to the degree of his self-honesty.
4. Don't confuse wealth with political power with phrases like "business and civic leaders." Wealth alone cannot create a monopoly.
5. "These rights exist because I take them." No, they would be yours if you took them or not. If a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it, it does still make a sound.
6. "Man must be returned to his glorious organic origins" -- you should be absolutely clear on the total implications of this -- shit huts, 25-year lifespans, a world population of a couple hundred thousand, famine and starvation, and death, death, death. Is this what you want? I'm not saying that we need the State to elevate us beyond this level of existence -- why would any State do such a thing, when there are other countries to bleed dry, after one has bled dry one's own? I'm saying that, after thousands of years of attrition, a State that has been disarmed against its own people, yet can and does still act to redress grievances, rebuke and retalliate against fraud and force, is better than no State at all, and does in fact make room for free men to build skyscrapers, extend their life to four score years, and (through a foolishly generous policy) spread the technology to feed millions at a time and sustain life past the 50th year accross the globe, knowing that there is Justice, and men with political power (guns) that will serve her. You, for example, have an entire police force at your disposal, so that you needn't suffer injustice in the form of force, and a legal system so that you needn't suffer the injustice of fraud.

Really, though, your metaphysics needs cleaning up, if you really think your "right to think, [your] right to be, [your] right to speak, all are contingent upon [your] use of them and [your] ability to get away with it." You can say what you wish, but it is unreasonable to say that your "right," in this sense, goes into another person and says they have to keep their mouth shut about it, or give you some sanction for your words, or means that you have the "right" to make threats on people's lives and this "right" means that it is wrong for others to act in accordance with your declared intention, i.e., as if you really mean to do it.

I have to be at work in 4 hours and I haven't slept yet, so I'm going to call it now -- you might get more, you might not -- you certainly won't "get it" so long as you hold on to "Kantian ethics."

TheGrza said...

"The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." -Thomas Hobbes

"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it Almighty God!" -Patrick Henry

To some of your finer points;
"Mastery of nature, not 'escape from'" implies an ability to remove the yoke of Nature from one's neck, the impossibility of which I think I already argued sufficiently.

Wealth alone cannot create a monopoly, you're right, but find me the poverty stricken oligarch and autocrat who lords over us all and tell me it isn't a contributing factor.

If you keep arguing that States require no coercion while neglecting to provide one example of a state refusing to violate, deeply, the rights of the individual. My argument on coercion is not entirely a philosophical one (although there is that too), but one of resignation. While you have a perfect philosophy that would require no coercion if implemented, are you so arrogant to assume that yours is the only one? Why, any philosophical system would fit the bill if people would just behave themselves and stop hijacking states, planes, movements, ideas, etc., for their own wretched and short-sighted benefits, and finally, as they always do, turning that "political power" back on the poor and weak.

Beyond that, there seem to be two misunderstandings you have with my argument. First, my wavelength simile. My point was regarding the human race and our inevitable extinction, not regarding a single human or implying that his right to live is connected to a God or anything else. Secondly, my assertion that "These rights exist because I take them." My point about rights being contingent on use wasn't clear enough. I meant to confine that statement to our modern lives and the state allowance of 19 basic freedoms which still remain simply from disuse. Just take note what happens everytime someone tries to foment an actual revolution in this country and how quickly "Natural Rights" becomes a matter of National Security.

But... You assert that life and other Natural rights come from some larger idea (we've already had the God-by-any-other-name discussion, no need to rehash it) and I agree wholeheartedly. But I allow for these rights to exist beyond the state as you argue that the State is necessary in their preservation. If, as you argued, these rights would disappear without the benefits of the state, then they are simple regulations, dependant on the state and rightfully its domain to rescind, restrict or remove any and all of them as it sees fit. On the other hand, if they can exist independent of a state, truly independent and without need for "protection" (an appropriate Mob allusion if ever there was), those rights are absolute and unending, no matter what corrupt organization or philosophy takes over the structure.

Come to think of it, there is a third misunderstanding, this one about "Shit Huts". I am making no arguments to return man to the shit huts as you call them (not necessary, by the way, I don't why everyone assumes that allowing societal dissolution means we all regress to apes attempting to figure out the extensive uses of Stick.) but instead making a negative one against the society that brought us up from them. (Again, didn't.) There are many aspects of society that hold value, but the main thrust of my argument was the inevitable moral failings of collective power and by implication diffused guilt. A state that continues to murder, continues to steal, continues to lie is by no means disarmed, and the consent of the governed makes its actions no less immoral. The freedom to build skyscrapers does not come off the backs of the oppressed, uneducated, disenfranchised and dead and no matter how many times one repeats to himself a mantra of guiltless individualism, if he still remains in a collectivist society he is alternatively afforded him all the privilege his hands can carry and all the blood his conscience can bear.

ETC said...

Bear blood on the conscience.
Bare conscience blood bath.

hands are a privilege, not a right... yet quite all right. All right?

I'll write "privilege" a million times in bear blood, being carried...
"how much does that weigh?" you say.
I couldn't tell you, but we could guess.
This is now our prerogative.

1)How much can you carry... as in, "privilege" written in blood birthed of bear, hand written on a page.

at least a million.... in consideration of the weight of paper as well.

2)how much bear blood "privilege" can be bore by a bare bear-being. Fully grown and grizzly.

billions? Trillions... it depends on the writing I suppose... I imagine many frills.

One bear-being won a billion bare beens made for been bag chairs
Not being embarrassed in the least, they were cherished for a week until the cat took a leak in the beeny baggy seat.
The bear was opposite of weak, enjoyed the havoc it could wreak, considers cats a bit meat, and wouldn't mind a little treat.

The bear being bears the blood in retribution as it should.