Sunday, June 20, 2010

On Representation

There is a bastard kind of generosity, which, by being extended to all men, is as fatal to society, on one hand, as the want of true generosity is on the other. A lax manner of administering justice, falsely termed moderation, has a tendency both to dispirit public virtue, and promote the growth of public evils.
Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Writings of Thomas Paine
pg 81
Lately (as in over the last year or more) I've been reading various writings of Thomas Paine. In Rights of Man he defends free governments against Edmond Burke's attacks and Paine himself attacks back against monarchy.

How do we compare today with what the propagandist claims us to be on transparency, the role of our "leaders", and taxes:
But the case is, that the representative system diffuses such a body of knowledge throughout a Nation on the subject of Government, as to explode ignorance and preclude imposition. The craft of [royal] courts cannot be acted on that ground. There is no place for mystery, nowhere for it to begin. Those who are not in the representation know as much of the nature of business as those who are. An affection of mysterious importance would there be scouted. Nations can have no secrets; and the secrets of courts, like those of individuals, are always their defects.

In the representative system, the reason for everything must publicly appear. Every man is a proprietor in Government and considers it a necessary part of his business to understand. It concerns his interest, because it affects his property. He examines the cost, and compares it with the advantages, and above all, he does not adopt the slavish custom of following what in other Governments are called LEADERS.

It can only be by blinding the understanding of man, and making him believe that Government is some wonderful mysterious thing, that excessive revenues are obtained. Monarchy is well calculate to ensure this end. It is the popery of Government, a thing kept up to amuse the ignorant and quiet them into taxes.

The Government of a free country, properly speaking, is not in the persons, but in the laws. The enacting of those requires no great expense; and when they are administered the whole of civil Government is performed - the rest is all [royal] court contrivance.
Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Writings of Thomas Paine
pg 293
How much mystery do we have in our government? The race to declare negotiations of counterfeiting treaties as state secrets, the convoluting of processes, back room deals, hiding pork in large "public good" bills. How do these things take affect and how do we stop it? I've heard Tocqueville would attribute it to apathy and I believe that would be a good chunk of it. What do we do about it though?

Also look how we inflate the role of public servants from being represenatives, judges, and executors to the great epitaph of Leaders. Most do not deserve that moniker and are at best managers working for their own good. I turn to Hugh Nibley for a good description of the difference between Leaders and Managers
Leaders are movers and shakers, original, inventive, unpredictable, imaginative, full of surprises that discomfit the enemy in war and the main office in peace. For managers are safe, conservative, predictable, conforming organization men and team players, dedicated to the establishment.
...
For the manager, on the other hand, the idea of equality is repugnant and indeed counterproductive. Where promotion, perks, privilege, and power are the name of the game, awe and reverence for rank is everything, the inspiration and motivation of all good men. ...

"If you love me," said the Greatest of all leaders, "you will keep my commandments." "If you know what is good for me," says the manager, "you will keep my commandments, and not make waves." That is why the rise of management always marks the decline of culture.
I highly recommend reading the rest of that commencement address he gave.

Another great quote to contemplate on representative governments accomplishing good:
It is always the interest of a far greater number of people in a Nation to have things right than to let them remain wrong; and when public matters are open to a debate, and the public judgment free it will not decide wrong, unless it decides too hastily.
Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Writings of Thomas Paine
pg 301
With managers representing us, we have those who create, pass, and sign laws that contain the worst of both sides to an argument without the benefits of either rather than working from principle and compromising for the greater good. How many politicians have passed laws so hastily that they have not read the very law they are passing? How long will we be hurting from this haste when these laws are such wide sweeping things as covering outrageously sized stimulus plans or national health care?