Don’t ask what your country can do for you…


Governments exist to serve the people living under their care. Anytime any government acts in any way that’s legitimately in the disinterest of the people then it voids its whole purpose for existing. If you hire a person to build a system that helps you, but instead they build a system that hurts you then you’re just being dumb if you pledge unquestioning loyalty to that person or the system they build. But if the general public shouldn’t have blind, dogmatic faith in their government then how much sway should their opinions have in government?

Governments exist to perform a functional role in society. They exist to minimize human suffering, and the causes of human suffering are rarely subjective. For example, poverty is a mechanical consequence to unsustainability. If there are enough resources to feed and clothe the entire planet ten times over but 80% of the population gets poorer every year while 20% gets richer then there’s an objective problem with the system that’s causing all that human suffering. There’s no reason it should be up for discussion whether or not income inequality is a problem. Human suffering is a problem, and governments exist to fix that problem. It doesn’t matter how any two voters feel income inequality should be fixed and human suffering should be alleviated. We might as well ask voters how they feel sewer systems should be designed or how they feel military leaders should plan their wartime strategies.

But we don’t typically ask voters how they feel about technical problems. We let experts with specialized education and experiences study the problem scientifically and deduce logical solutions, which they then apply to the problem without generally asking or telling the public about it. The public doesn’t get up in arms about this, because as long as their toilets work and the suburbs aren’t invaded by barbarians then they can get on with living. If the public had to vote on every single thing the government did then nothing would ever get done. So a good government is like a fire-and-forget missile, and we embrace this concept every time we don’t call up our local politicians to complain about every single street light and crack in the sidewalk we don’t like.

This is very practical of us and is to be commended, but where do we draw the line? And remember, this isn’t a question of “Do we draw a line?” It’s a question of, “Where do we draw the line?” If you live in the country with the highest quality of living in the world then these philosophical questions aren’t that immediately important to you. At least, you could just ignore them and let your government keep doing whatever it’s doing and you’ll probably be able to continue enjoying a high quality of living. However, the question of how much influence voters/tax payers should have in the day-to-day business of running the country becomes very important to your quality of life in the immediate present when you live in a country full of maniacal idiots who have as much power in your government as they can afford to buy.

Idiots act in their disinterest. That’s what makes idiotic behavior idiotic: it doesn’t work out well for you in the end. If there’s one thing conservatives and liberals can agree on it’s that there are too many idiots with too much power in government. Everybody hates that, but nobody wants to change it because everyone perceives it would be in our disinterest to forfeit our ability to elect leaders in open elections. After all, if you don’t have the freedom to influence government then you don’t really have freedom. At least, you only enjoy your freedoms at the whim of your leaders, and that’s a pretty watered down flavor of freedom.

So conservatives and liberals alike cling to representative “democracy” even though they forfeit their freedom to influence government every time their peers elect a politician who represents an ideology they disagree with. Conservatives and liberals alike forfeit their freedom again if they allow politicians to do whatever they want without ever being held accountable for their campaign promises or any human suffering that is objectively created by their actions. If/when we don’t hold our leaders accountable then we’re just electing dictators. The freedom to choose between two dictators who only represent their own interests isn’t just a watered down flavor of freedom. That’s just…not…freedom.

This raises the question, how do we reconcile all our contradictory expectations of government? Well, holding politicians accountable to their campaign promises and making corruption punishable as treason would be huge steps towards reigning in politicians, but it still wouldn’t prevent idiots from entering political office in the first place.

There are a lot of simple changes any government can make to keep idiots out of power. Competency exams and background checks for politicians are obvious examples. If you can get smart people in office to begin with then you might not have to create a robust system to regulate them. NASA doesn’t have as robust of a system in place to micromanage and punish astrophysicists as say a high school would have to micromanage and punish students. NASA doesn’t need one because astrophysicists already think scientifically, and their scientific approach to understanding the universe generally keeps them sane.

Governments can improve the odds that the children who will someday grow up to be politicians will be sane, intelligent people capable of acting in society’s best interest voluntarily if everyone in the country had unlimited access to free education.

If you want to go a step further and actually build a robust system of checks and balances that ensure politicians act in the best interest of their voters/tax payers (even when the voter/taxpayers demand unyieldingly that politicians act in their disinterest) then you’re going to have to rewrite your politicians’ job contracts, and since their job description is to uphold the social contract then you better have a brilliantly logical and robust social contract to base politicians’ job descriptions on.

As it stands, every country in the world needs to rewrite their social contracts whether they’re stated in a constitution or some other legal premise for their government’s sovereignty. The best way to do that is not to have violent revolutions that replace our existing governments with…whoever is leading the revolutions. Governments can fix themselves with constitutional conventions.

But politicians who currently have the freedom to act like dictators have very little incentive to let the public arrange a constitutional convention much less arrange it themselves. It would just be naïve to expect politicians to ask a constitutional convention to take away their freedoms for the greater good.  At the same time, it would also be naïve to expect all the idiot voters/tax payers to support a constitutional convention that limits their ability to force their cherished misconceptions down the rest of society’s throats.

The world is the way it is because that’s the way people want it, and until people change their wants it’s futile to try to force them to change, much less compromise. So if you want to save the world, the first thing you should do is support unlimited free education.

Until we raise a generation of intelligent adults capable of thinking logically and running a productive constitutional convention all you can really do to ensure your quality of life is hunker down and try to ride out the storm and minimize how much power idiots have over you. The key to that is sustainability. If you live in a village that can completely sustain its population without the intervention of a higher echelon, national government then you won’t need a national government to minimize human suffering in your village.

If you live in say, the United States of America or the Congo there are a million reasons why it would be naïve of you to expect your government to save you. Your livelihood is at risk in the first place because your government is run by idiots who have access to enough guns and brainwashed, patriotic supporters to squash any attempt to change the status quo. So don’t ask what your country can do for you. I’ll tell you right now, it won’t do anything except what it’s been doing, which is making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

But if you live in a self-sustainable village then you don’t need the government to take care of you. You’ll be fine. If everybody lived in self-sustainable villages or cities then we wouldn’t have to fight over issues like welfare or social security because those problems will have already been solved by intelligent urban planning.

Once the majority of voters/tax payers’ lives are stabilized then they can turn their collective attention towards education, philosophy and maybe even setting up constitutional conventions. That would be great, and we owe it to our children to leave them a world where the biggest thing they have to worry about is what subject they’re going to study next, but we don’t live in that world yet. We live in a world designed to boom and bust to pump up investor returns and pave the way for monopolies. The best thing you can do to save the world right now may be to build yourself a sustainable refuge and ride out the storm that’s already here.

If you’re not suffering yet, don’t assume that means you won’t suffer tomorrow, because poverty, crime and war are your government’s modus operandi. That’s why you shouldn’t ask what your country can do for you. That’s why you should be asking what you can do to save yourself from the problems your government is creating.

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One comment

  1. Definitely agree that the sustainable village is part of the solution, it sets an example. Things like your blog another part. Education too. Tests on politicians moral compasses should be conducted daily if not hourly. Normal people need to be involved and be actively working out the alternatives even if governments are not listening.

    http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/2012/06/01/now-more-than-ever-economics-should-be-a-matter-for-public-debate

    I actually went through a whole bunch of very similar thought processes myself. Back in 2005 I wrote my entire dissertation on the problem that is: Why is it that even though we have the ideas, technology, the social and economic understanding and capability to solve just about every problem humanity has (and we really do), why when we could be living in a truly sustainable manner, with populations who are happy and healthy are we not doing so???? When revolutions are very much an option but in most cases not necessary to achieve the ‘sustainable village’ scenario right now- why is this not being done on a mass scale? Are people just stupid?

    But if I can figure this stuff out, so can anyone, people are not stupid. They ARE just undereducated or too time poor. Nonetheless for me the reality is that these solutions are being implemented. Just v e r y s l o w l y, and are being hindered at just about every stage imaginable by governments and corporations and people themselves. Weather I like it or not sustainability is not top priority for anyone. Thats not to say that its not on the list, is just behind things like putting food on the table and shelter over peoples heads. The problem for the individual is that the game is fixed by those in power. They make it just hard enough that people struggle to ever get beyond having enough time and financial resources to move past catering for those basic requirements. But we will get there eventually. The internet will be very helpful, as long as it remains a tool that can be used to organise collective action and cooperation, it can also provide a good chunk of the free education for all. Food can be grown. Bicycles repaired. I’m a big fan of a society based on well-being and GNH (Gross National Happyness) rather than GDP. Allot of governments around the world are waking up to the idea and are begining to measure it, which is the first step to making higher well being (GNH) the goal rather than in incumbent GDP. Its simple enough as concept to gain mass popular appeal and would be a great change of focus.

    PS Nice blog.

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