Humankind invented government to protect its safety and prosperity, but when might that protection begin to hinder our progress as a species?
Individual humans are capable of great and mighty things, especially when encouraged and developed to manage and grow themselves. This is a role and mission parents can take on to execute in the lives of their children. This form of self-reliance and self-sufficiency is core to the ascendancy of each individual and vital to the health of a robust society.
Humans are driven first by incentives. Everything we do must, in some way, produce something that satisfies our internal needs and desires. Even people who consider themselves utterly selfless serve others because of how it makes themselves feel. Understanding that incentive drives all behavior, even the noblest behavior, we then must consider how incentive drives civilization.
Governments (aka consolidated power) formed to protect resources. Early tribes created alliances because few individuals stood alone as powerfully as they did together. Such alliances allowed humans to dominate and cultivate resources for long-term growth against competing groups. Competitive micro-unity was the name of the game. Tribal “US vs THEM” drove our first governments.
As primitive society and cultures grew in importance to the human consciousness, so did general, daily behaviors. No longer was government used merely to enforce survival and protect resources, but common actions fell under its purview. Certain words, actions, attitudes and even thought processes were promoted while others were prohibited. Humans believed a single way of thinking would produce superior results. There is merit and fallacy to this concept; merit because superior methods produce superior results, fallacy because embracing a single method (as government can only do) is a sure way to reduce the variance of thought necessary for adaptation when conditions change.
Conditions? They always change.
Human desire to control conditions drove increased levels of government, though competing influences often complicated the outcomes. While tribes — primitive or modern — often seek consolidated power of government for the general welfare, high-functioning individuals often rise to power and use it for their own benefit. They guide government to protect and grow individual resources at the expense of the groups they promise to use the power for.
Despite the constant battle against these high-functioning individuals to use government for personal gain, the general body who believe in government often sees it as a method of shaping society and humankind, in general. This leads to deeper integration of government’s power into the daily lives of individuals.
Those who value government’s positive influence hope to use the strata of consolidated power to replace the need for individual responsibility. If such a strata can organize the masses, streamline the flow of resources and narrow the scope of human behavior to prevent crime, isn’t that a good idea?
Problems arise, however, when one ignores key faults inherent to every government.
1. Enforce one morality at a time. Despite the cornucopia of peoples, beliefs, religions and systems of thought that cohabit our fair nation, government can only choose a single system to enforce.
2. Can only pick winners and losers in the great social competition. Cultures and subcultures are in constant flu and evolution, especially in our technologically advanced world. Government’s inability to adapt enforces antiquated thinking for modern times and inhibits our social progress.
3. Suffer the worship of rules. Bureaucrats are known for planning and operating by what works on paper and often are disconnected with the realities and conflicts of daily life. Rules are praised and the need to change is increasingly considered immoral.
4. Displace decision makers from the costs of their decisions. A key element to good decision-making is having a clear understanding of desired outcomes and the costs required to achieve them. Bureaucrats at most levels can be distanced from their decisions, but those in Washington are nearly blind to the real costs of their decisions, and are more apt to make decisions based more on feelings and hope than reality.
5. Distort actual resources by disconnecting the buyers from the bought. People are prone to believing they can afford more when they see lots of money, but they don’t realize that pooling money doesn’t make MORE money. “Sure, we can afford what we want, look at all the money!” If people can’t afford it collectively voluntarily, they won’t afford it collectively, especially when government makes it more expensive by first paying itself the cost of spending your money.
6. Support the rise of cultural and class warfare. Because government serves as “high ground,” cultures are attracted to fighting over it. The more government is used as a social battering ram, the more cultures and subcultures will fight over it so that THEIR view is the ONE view government executes. Not only will cultures fight for their own dominance, but will use social engineering to vilify other cultures to promote their belief systems as “dominant.”
7. Promote groupthink over the need of empowered decision-making at the lowest possible levels. A key element in quality leadership is a bottom-up approach to the distribution of power. Allow decision-making to happen at the lowest level to best fit constantly shifting situations allows an organization to remain resistant to stagnation and promote dynamic growth. Government doesn’t do that. At all. The entire idea behind states rights was to prevent that stagnation, but as power consolidates in Washington, the focus shifts to blind, top-down decisions. Ontop of all that? Groupthink grows rampant the more systems make decisions and people don’t.
Those hopeful for government’s strength ignores these powerful, inevitable weaknesses. The desire to use government for good is noble, but like disconnected bureaucrats making decisions without clarity on the costs, those who promote statism don’t calculate the actual costs of consolidated power.
Voting for a top-down approach promotes the culture war, disconnects decision makers from costs, stagnates cultural evolution and promotes groupthink, so as government becomes more invasive, we suffer all its faults in our daily lives like never before.
It’s also important to note one key human fault makes government’s shortcomings even more dangerous in our lives — when humans don’t have to make decisions, we stop thinking for ourselves. Humans evolve, grow and maximize their potential when risk remains a driving force behind decision making for ourselves and for each other. The more we attempt to forcibly reduce risks by making government pay the costs of living in a changing world, the more we inhibit human development and, ultimately, retard our growth as a species.
Ultimately, society is not comprised of better bureaucracies, but better people. People cannot grow when a system is used to replace their own cognitive and emotional responsibilities. We require challenge, obstacles and costs to force ourselves to grow, evolve and deepen our mental and social prowess. So long as we ask a system to do what we should be doing ourselves, government will always hinder the very thing it was designed to protect — our continuing welfare and prosperity.