The Problem of Government
As I see it, we have had a moment of good government and it is ending.
Government for the people has not been the historical norm! Far from it. Rulers have generally oppressed their people. Recently we visited China, and like good tourists went to see the Terracotta Warriors. We there read the various blurbs about the early emperors. They were a uniformly nasty lot. Their only interest seemed to be themselves, they brutally used their people and had not a thought for the welfare of those they ruled. In other times and places there were some better rulers, but they were the exception. Sadly in Europe we heard about barons and even bishops who built forts along the rivers that were the only practical trade routes and exacted heavy tolls from traders. Surprisingly it was in Turkey that we saw a caravansary built by the Moslem ruler on a trade route where anyone could come for three nights free lodging within its walls under the ruler's protection and with the guarantee of leaving with whatever goods they had arrived with.
Government by the people has most certainly not been the historical norm! But we have grown to like the idea.
In the West both these ideals are developing stress fractures as I pointed out in earlier posts. In Europe unelected EU bureaucrats are increasingly making decisions. In America political elites in both parties call the shots, but live in a rarefied atmosphere far from the cares and woes of a large section of the population. Hence the phenomenon of Donald Trump. In Australia I'm probably too close to the situation to see clearly, but it looks as though politicians are chasing votes rather than making the unpalatable choices that are necessary to get the country out of debt.
But all around the West it is not just the politicians but the people who are acting badly.
There is this phenomenon if identity politics. People who “identify as …” (homosexual, Aboriginal, African American, and the list seems ever expanding) are demanding that no one is allowed to offend them, and tyrannising over the majority. The homosexual lobby “LGBT” or whatever is the latest acronym is one example. Homosexual acts used to be illegal, they were decriminalized – fair enough, but the lobby did not stop there, anti-discrimination legislation came in to make it unlawful to discriminate against such people, or even ask about sexuality for employment. Then it went further, no one was allowed to offend homosexuals, so anyone who even hinted that such acts were anything other than the norm were pilloried as “homophobes”. And so on.
Then there is the lynch mob mentality of social and mainstream media. Fair trial? Not likely! With no opportunity make their defence, with no check on the accuracy of the allegations, indeed with none of the essentials of determining the truth of the matter, issues are decided by stories going viral on the internet, or being “exposed” by TV news shows chasing ratings, and often the “crime” was merely to offend against identity politics or political correctness. This takes us back to the burning of witches and recurrent pogroms of a past we would like to leave in the past.
There is self interest overruling all else. In a sensible family, if they have maxed out their credit cards through spending more than they earn, they don't go on spending as usual – they work out what economies they need to make get out of debt. That is common sense. But many of our countries are deep in debt and getting deeper. That can't go on forever. Yet in Greece for instance the populace threw out a government that wanted “austerity measures” that would not even reduce government spending on welfare and other programs – just reduce how fast it was increasing!
As Margaret Thatcher once said: “The trouble with socialists is that they eventually run out of other people's money to spend.” No country can go on consuming more than it produces.
In all the above I am not saying anything novel. In recent times more and more columnists have been saying these things in greater detail and more eloquently than I have.
My point in joining the chorus is to highlight that in order to save the West, attitudes of both politicians and voters need to change. Next I want to look at what makes for good government to see what these attitudes need to change to.