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Politics and Human Nature

Why government doesn't work.


by James Leroy Wilson
November 8, 2002

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Politics and Human Nature_James Leroy Wilson-Why government doesn't work. Another election has passed, and it looks as though the American people have voted for themselves the same old same old. Politics has been called the "art of the possible." I probably repeated that myself in these pages. It might be true, if we think of "politics" as merely achieving one's ambition, whether in government or any other organization. But when we think of politics relating to government only, that statement is a lie. When we think of politics as the affairs of state, there is but one truth: politics is the art of deceit.

What is the nature of this deceit? Rose Wilder Lane, in her flawed but brilliant book The Discovery of Freedom, talks of infants. Babies want to be fed, and are fed. Babies want to be picked up, and are picked up. Through no power of their own, through no exertion of energy, the wishes of babies come true. All they really need to do is cry. What babies don't realize is that their own enjoyment comes at the cost of someone else. Mothers, fathers, and baby-sitters satisfy their needs, through exertions of their own energies.

This isn't entirely a bad thing, in fact, it can serve as a pretty good lesson. For as a child grows and realizes he must actually do some work himself to get what he wants, his instinct is to give the most efficient effort. That is, put in as little effort as possible to achieve what he wants to achieve. To the extent that no one else is hurt, and would probably gain, this inclination is the birth of innovation and of capitalism.

But the negative side is where politics comes in. Politicians are those who appeal to the most base instincts. Politicians tell people that they can have what they want without any cost. All they have to do is place their faith in the right poltician, or worship the right God, and they will be blessed. Just as the baby's wish can become a reality just by crying, so a politician can give us a better life just by saying it will be so.

I know, I know: nobody actually believes politicans when they say these things. Yet, voters feel obligated to vote for the kind of vision promised by the Democrat or Republican, or to vote against someone they don't like by voting for the candidate of the opposing major party. What is overlooked is that both parties make empty and utterly asinine promises. Promises which assert that, by this or that intervention into human affairs by government, society will be happier, safer, more prosperous, more virtuous, etc.

Libertarians understand that this is all a fraud. Voting for one or the other power party just because it is the "lesser of two evils" is to consent to the furtherence of evil. The challenge libertarians face is to persuade the people that any further restriction on their personal liberty is counter-productive to their own interests. Government doesn't work, and government can't work, by the very reason that our human nature demands from us only our most efficient effort to achieve our desired ends. If a bridge is built on faulty mathematical calculations, it is pointless to pray to God that the bridge will never collapse. God is not arbitary; God created mathematical order for the purpose of our well-being, and it is not God's fault if we violate those principles. Likewise, if our collective "compassion" causes us to vote to empower government with a new bureaucracy designed to solve a "social problem," it is pointless to pray that those bureaucrats will be of a generous, servant spirit to make the program work. Those bureaucrats are human, and will seek more pay and greater job security with as little work as possible. The program will not work and can not work, because it violates our own human nature.

And this is not a "sinful" nature I'm talking about; it is our natural, human nature that existed in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned: to try to become happier with little to zero cost is exactly what it means to be human. It is the essence of reason itself, the tool by which we govern ourselves. The entire purpose of our God-given rational minds is to avoid making things more difficult for ourselves than they have to be.

So, obviously, this doesn't make the bureaucrat a more evil person than someone working in the private sector, for that person, too, is seeking to maximize pay with minimal work. The difference is, the person in the private sector will, in fact, have to do more work in order to achieve what he wants to achieve. He will be more efficient in actual practice. He will be more accountable for his work and for his inaction. Whereas the non-profit sector, especially government, grants more leeway for non-productivity precisely because profits aren't the goal, so it is true that the private sector is more productive precisely because profits are the goal. To genuinely maximize human effort, more and more services must be privatized as much as possible. This will provide costs that are lower for the consumer than their current taxes, and greater profits for the service-providers than tax revenue would have provided the government.

To wish for anything else is to purposefully force taxpayers to pay more for less. That doesn't just punish those taxpayers, that punishes everyone through stifled initiative and innovation. Let us no longer behave like babies, acting as though wealth can be created without effort or cost. Let us think about our true natures, our true selves, and set public policy accordingly.

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PO BOOKS BY JAMES LEROY WILSON
Ron Paul Is a Nut (and So Am I)
Published September 10, 2008

Forget about red states and blue states. Wilson's unique take on political topics is refreshingly not politics as usual.

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Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
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A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

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