I stumbled upon a couple of rather interesting statements today, both of which involved 19th century paradigmic shifts within governmental and sociological ideologies towards the humanistic ideal of man’s ability to act as (or become) a benevolent being. The first statement comes from an article, involving the prohibition and criminalization of certain drugs (emphasis added):
In many countries, popular support for drug prohibition also has been rooted in the uniquely 20th-century faith in the capacity of the state to penetrate and benevolently control many aspects of daily life for the “common good.” The hope of global drug prohibition, of the people who created the system, was the hope of using the powers of a nearly omnipotent state to do good and suppress evil. This romantic vision itself was very much part of a distinctly 20th century utopian hope or dream. Unlike, say, the “founding fathers” who wrote the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and unlike many political movements in the 19th century, in the 20th century liberals, conservatives, fascists, communists, socialists, populists, right-wingers and left-wingers usually shared this romantic vision of the benevolent state. Twentieth-century political movements disagreed violently about how the state should be used. Drug prohibition was one of the few things they could all agree upon. Drug prohibition was part of what I think it is appropriate to call the 20th century’s “romance with the state.”
Of course the easy thing to say about this particular statement would be that this view on how the “founding fathers” saw governments (as opposed to how the way it was viewed by some in the later part of the 19th and throughout subsequent centuries) is that this is “obviously” an extremely Libertarian viewpoint, as evidenced by not only the ideas at hand, but also the wording used. And of course, to most of us it could go without saying that this statement could be made with the subject at had aside. However, to do either would give credibility to the quoted statement: my choice of wording and automatic dismissal of the subject at hand (that being the prohibition and criminalization of drugs by a humanist moralist government) as being, presumably, a repudiation of the idea that prohibition is a good thing, thereby labeling me as both a member of one of those in a “romance with the state,” and consequently identifying me as being at odds with the governmental views of our nationâ€™s forefathers.
(As a side note, it’s funny that I should see this today. Last night I was at a pizzeria with The Wife, and playing on the television was a documentary on the formation of Las Vegas as a place where underworld activities of the organized crime of the time, such as gambling and prostitution, not only came into full light as legal and legitimate businesses, but how the city thrived because of it. Libertarianism at work? Perhaps. But if Las Vegas is the end result of Libertarianism, then why would anyone want to be a Libertarian? Then again, it could be argued that since Las Vegas is essentially an area with a large concentration of the criminal enterprises which were before then in other places, it stands to follow that this type of environment is not the necessary end-result of Libertarian policies. I’ll stop here because, frankly, I don’t wish to pursue this subject any further.)
The second statement came from a discussion regarding eugenics, and the aborting of early-detected Down Syndrome fetuses (fetii?).
But late in the nineteenth century a subtle shift began to occur. The view that a human being had a natural right to live began to erode under the corrosive ideals of the eugenics movement.
As physicians, scientists, and other elites began to determine what qualities of life made life worth living, it became a humanitarian duty to end the lives of those who didnâ€™t possess the necessary traits. â€œChloroform unfit children,â€ said the famed Scopes trial lawyer Clarence Darrow, â€œshow them the same mercy that is shown beasts that are no longer fit to live.â€
At the root of the idea of the benevolence of government is the humanist idea that man is neither good nor evil, and that given our level of enlightenment, the wisdom and benevolence of man in deciding the necessary components of a life worth living are something we’re endowed with. (If one works under the presumption that there is no absolute truth, no “higher power” to which we should answer to other than the future of our species, then this seems like a perfectly logical conclusion to follow.) As such, in this day and age, we can require more of a life worth living than Socrates’ simple statement of “An unexamined life is a life not worth living.” It is at this point that we begin to see the real consequences of the objectification of the human by extreme liberal ideology: the demotion from divinely-inspired creation to fortunate mistake of universal evolution*. As such, not only do we lower ourselves to the status of mere animals, but also create a new cast-system where the most eugenically fit of us become like unto gods. (A lot of extrapolation there, and I may follow that through by posting the set of arguments leading to that conclusion sometime in the future.) As such, this top class, which acts like Huxley’s Alpha-class citizens in Brave New World begins making decisions about who within the lower classes has the right to live and who doesnâ€™t. Without having absolute wisdom, or at the very least strict purity of mind and complete separation from worldly attachments in addition to pure compassion, absolute power can â€“ to use the clichÃ© â€“ corrupt absolutely.
* Note: Whether the demotion is warranted or not is of no particular consequence, nor shall I judge it within this post.
Maybe that’s why Communism, Socialism, and most Liberal ideologies for that matter, don’t work: they don’t account for human failings, such as the lust for money, power, greed, and self-above-others preservation, requiring instead the equivalent of a Buddha, or a god-like figure for that matter, to ensure justice and good. While the aforementioned failings are all controllable and overcome-able within the individual, they are not so when dealing with masses. So long as people still lust and desire, systems like this will never work. Here is where Democracies and Republics get their proven advantages: they rely on the balancing of power between various entities, the many, and the one, taking into consideration all forms of human failings and ideological contradictions.
I could take this line of thought much further, but I feel this breadcrumb is enough to start more than a few threads of thought.