Preserving Our Society: The Case For Small Government
We have to consider the fact that the large and powerful governments that we have fashioned are the primary targets of those with the best intentions and bad actors alike. Further, that it is the pursuit of this power which has caused so much destabilization in recent years. A strong and stable government is the goal for any rational society but that same strength absent the stability or, far worse, lacking the moral underpinnings necessary to maintain order can just as easily become a threat to the people it was once established to protect. One need not look beyond any of our modern day autocracies to see how the lack of one of these key elements can lead to a dystopia that began with the same goals of protection and security.
Some seek to maximize pleasure while others seek to minimize pain. In an ever shrinking, highly interconnected world that sees a growing number of ways for its inhabitants to end the entirety of the species, it would benefit us to spend our energies in pursuit of limiting the damage a small handful of generally unregulated power players can inflict. Our technological innovations have allowed us to achieve a standard of living that overshadows the dreams of those even a few generations our senior. Likewise, they have concentrated power among an increasingly smaller number of individuals, many of whom were neither elected by the people nor appointed to their position by virtue of their bloodline. Relative unknowns now wield immense power by heading massive multinational corporations that, in many cases, eclipse the economic activity and influence of most nations. The collusion between these few and today’s leaders is indisputable and to the point where we are experiencing a complete undermining of democracies as people rightfully ask why they should bother electing leaders who are so clearly beholden to others. Various dictators, being in a position to control even these select few through threat of force, have touted this as a positive. A removal of red tape and other democratic “barriers to prosperity” for the simple price of one’s freedom. It is a price many are willing to pay as the world becomes more unrecognizable due in part to the overwhelming changes that have bred so much uncertainty and fear.
This concentration of power is compounded by legitimate and dictatorial governments colluding with one another to form unions and cooperatives making legally binding decisions in nations that never consented to their rule. Ultimately, we have been left with very few people in control of more economic, political, and military might than even the most ruthless empires and subjugators throughout history have wielded. These absolutists have brought about great destruction on a whim, but they never had the power to end all human life. This is the world we face today. One where a small group of nihilists or madmen can forever alter the course of history or end it altogether. The case to minimize pain is clear. Prior to the establishment of a harmonious utopia that necessitates vast centralized power, we will have to ensure that we survive to the point where that undertaking can begin.
It is unlikely that a small government that lacks the influence needed to enact societal change would be the focus of various special interest groups and foreign powers trying to sway or alter the nation. People need not petition the pauper for resources he does not have. When our reality is one that has seen the potential destruction of everything over the period of a chaotic and bloody century, it is reasonable to assume we should keep our governments in check. Even if they promise temporary relief or a carefree life in exchange for a more powerful grasp.
Libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and other extremists find common ground here in that they look for a smaller state to grow the individual. While that cause is noble, it also has ramifications far beyond merely stymieing the leadership’s ability to destroy or destabilize the nation. This is not a case for an impotent, lawless nightwatchman state so much as a case for a purposely depowered authority that cannot do a great deal of harm while still maintaining day to day functionality and defense.
At home, local and national unrest would see a diminished incentive to continue tearing society apart if there were few institutions to appeal to for the changes that can only be carried out by today’s all-pervasive governments. The worry that this would impede our ability to change aspects of our society that we deem outdated or unusable is a fair one but it is also in essence the point of reducing government power. Doing so reduces that government’s ability to turn this overwhelming power on you after your desired changes are fulfilled or if a rival group were to use similar tactics and usurp that power to your detriment. There are few things as naïve as one who believes their purpose is purely benevolent and a net positive for all were the masses to just bow to their demands. More than one brutal tyranny was born from such thinking in the 20th century and we have yet to recover.
Human societies are unbelievably complex, highly volatile, and in a constant state of flux. This makes governing them an ongoing balancing act as vast but still finite resources often means gains for some are losses for others. Yet this constant growth and change has always existed with or without a domineering central authority and it impacts all aspects of society — economic, social, or otherwise. We need not rely on a government to see the change we desire and we risk complete collapse by concentrating power.
The issue is one of probability: do we trust that the vast majority of flawed human beings can come together, elect honest representatives, and work toward the common good using the great deal of power and resources we have harnessed? Something that has never so much as come close to being achieved or even sincerely attempted. Or do we acknowledge the near universal human experience where some have come to power and used it to the detriment of the rest? Knowing that the future of the species is at stake, the former is a gamble few could reasonably recommend.