Thursday, July 15, 2010

Government Power

I've noticed something interesting about the typical conservative and liberal views of government power and actions.

Many right-wingers spend their time fighting the expansion of domestic government power.  Their assumption is that government power is bad, and that if unchecked the United States will become a tyrannical socialist state.  Yet these same people are strangely unconcerned about government power that is directed against people who are not American citizens.  If anything, any criticism of an aggressive foreign policy is denounced as unpatriotic.  And they also tend to dismiss stories about unfair treatment of minorities in our society.

Left-wingers, on the other hand, are quick to point out the ways that our government abuses powerless people, both abroad and in our country.  They are full of stories of imperialism and domination of foreigners and minorities.  And yet, despite believing all of these stories about the harm done by government, they tend to have the belief that more government intervention is the best way to solve all kinds of problems, from environmental damage to wealth and educational disparities.

Both of these belief sets make sense, in a way.  The right-wing belief set is based on the assumption that all people can and should handle their own problems, that the proper role of government is to form a barrier between citizens and outsiders, and that outsiders are inherently dangerous and should be kept in their place for the good of the country's citizens.  The left-wing belief set is based on the assumption that government is inherently responsive to the will of the people, that can be used to do what the public wants, that all people deserve to be treated fairly, and that any government abuse of a group of people is a sign that the people of the country wanted to hurt that group.

I believe that any government system should safeguard the rights and liberties of all people, that bureaucracies pursue their own goals at the expense of the will of the people, that government power is inherently dangerous, and that easily spins out of control unless the proper safeguards are in place.  Given that we live in a democratic society, and that our people have some control over the government, one would naturally expect that the worst abuses of government power would be directed against people who cannot vote in American elections.

With that in mind, read this article about the economic sanctions of Iraq.  It summarizes a book that describes how our government caused massive death and suffering among innocent civilians, while failing to accomplish anything.  If you are a liberal, please keep in mind that this is the government that you would give more power to, and that there is no fundamental difference between the people who did this and the people you would put in charge of our health care system, education system, and economy.  If you are a conservative, read this as proof that your worst fears about government power are fully justified, and that The Blind Idiot God of bureaucracy can cause massive damage if it is allowed to roam free.

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