Monday, January 17, 2000

Week of 01/17/2000

The Myth of the Benevolent Tyrant
- by David Matthews 2

Once upon a time there was a wonderful land ruled by a great and powerful king. It was a land of untold plenty and goodness, where dreams would come true and where the evils of the world would not plague them.

In this wonderful land, the people were without want or need, because they knew that the king would make sure whatever it is the people wanted or needed was met. The king was ever quick to use the kingdom’s coffers to fulfill the wishes of the people.

It was a land without fear, because the king’s knights made sure any threats to the safety of the people were removed. It didn’t matter if the threat was invading hoards of barbarians, fire-breathing dragons, disgruntled knaves, or even apprentice-shop bullies, the king’s soldiers would quickly come in and eliminate the problem before one innocent life was traumatized. And the people didn’t mind if the king’s men stormed their houses or searched their goods, because they knew it was for their own protection, and they welcomed the intrusion.

It was a land without worry either, for this king was a caring ruler, and he did not want to see his people suffer. He made sure that the children were well cared for when they played in the streets while their parents worked. He also made sure that the elderly spent their last days in serenity and comfort, cared for by the best professional healers in the kingdom.

And most importantly, it was a land without hate, for the king loved the people just as much as the people loved him. They knew that he wouldn’t do anything that would harm them, and he knew that he could count on their support anytime he asked for it.

What a wonderful land, isn’t it? A place where the king could do no wrong and the people loved him. A land of untold plenty, where people lived the good life without complaints, and were safe and secure both in their homes and on the streets. Truly a utopia, if there ever was one.

There’s just one little problem… it doesn’t exist in the real world!

This magical, mythical kingdom of an all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-caring monarch is truly the stuff of fairy tales and children’s stories, invoking legendary tales of King Arthur and Camelot. It is also the idea invoked by many politicians and special interest groups who believe that government is the universal cure-all for whatever ails us.

Concerned about your streets? Never fear - government will save us! You won’t have to worry about defending yourself, because government will do that for you! Just let the king’s men come into your home and search your belongings and probe into your life. After all, you don’t have anything to worry about, right? Good and decent people have nothing to fear from the king’s men.

Worried about poverty? Never fear – government will help us! You won’t have to worry about saving some money in case of a rainy day. You’ll just have to give up a little bit more of your hard-earned money for our special programs to help the poor. It’s not like you’ll notice the increase. After all, you’re already losing almost half of your paycheck to pay the various taxes out there, so what’s another five or ten percent added to that? Besides, if you’re having financial problems, you know you can call on government to help you out… that is what you’re paying for, right?

Concerned about all those "offensive" things that are out there? Never fear – government will protect our kids! You won’t have to worry about doing your jobs as parents and prepare your kids for the harsh reality of the world around us. Just let government stifle a little bit of your freedom of speech and all of those offensive things will just disappear like magic! And you can trust us to know which things are offensive. We know that only the truly depraved would be worried about what words would be edited from our society.

Sound familiar? Those are the same arguments that have been invoked by politicians for years. That’s the message they invoke in their campaign speeches, in their commercials, and in the debates to separate themselves from their competition. Government will help us, or so we’re told.

The end result, however, hardly resembles anything King Arthur would call Camelot.

Rather than making streets safe, government removes the means for the citizens to defend themselves, forcing the people to be even that much more dependant on the king’s knights. Then government conveniently washes their hands clean when that protection inevitably fails. Worse yet, the king then uses that failure as a justification for even more "protections."

The government’s social programs do not help the poor. Rather, they create government bureaucracies which soak up the bulk of those allocated funds. To give more money, government must take it from "the rich". Of course, "the rich" usually means the hard-working people who struggle trying to make ends meet, because unlike businesses, individual citizens can’t pass the cost of higher taxes to anyone else. Nor do these people have the connections or the political leverage to get worthy tax exemptions, unlike those who would truly be considered "the rich". The end result being the hard-working people having to pay more and more money, and eventually being dependant on government to help them financially for things they would otherwise be able to afford. And again, the king uses this as justification for even more "help" from the government.

Then there is government trying to "protect" society from all things that offend. Quite often, that "protection" comes in the form of regulations and laws created by an elite few who presume - rather piously - to know what is "best" for the rest of the community. Once enacted, they are usually enforced selectively, reserved only for cases that would garner the most publicity, or sometimes even for the sake of a personal vendetta. The end result is a series of schizophrenic rules which have very little resemblance to the reality it affects. Worse yet, when people find ways to get around those rather bizarre rules, the king uses that as yet another reason for even more such complicated laws and regulations.

I hope you’ve noticed a pattern here. Government’s actions do very little to resolve the problems at hand. Rather, each of them are designed to - at best - maintain the status quo, while calling on even more government involvement.

Let’s get brutally honest here. Government may pretend to operate like Camelot, but in realty, it operates like that of another legendary community… Nottingham, a land full of overbearing taxes and stifling laws. And while liberals would portray themselves like Robin Hood, quite often they fail miserably in comparison.

The myth of an all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-caring benevolent tyrant is a very easy sell for people who yearn for some kind of utopian existence in the near future. They believe that such a state of perfection can be achieved by making a few sacrifices now. Of course, it’s always helpful when other people have to make those sacrifices.

The sad reality is that such a collective utopian vision is often a pipe dream, one that can never be made real, no matter how many sacrifices are made. The best dreams of a happily ever after come not from a collective vision, but rather the dreams you make yourself.

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