March 11th, 2001.
The Natural Proclivities of
... Enthusiastic Politicians.
A society that is under central authoritarian control (total control) is one wherein totalitarianism exists. In such a system private judgment is sacrificed for the sake of public control. While such a system is always under pressure from the natural diversity of human opinion, there is no arguing with totalitarian authority, thus there is only two ways to respond: it's either crack up or crack down. Ultimately force is always required; one way or another.
"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites."1
One should not think that the concept of a totalitarian system went out with the passing of the times of the classic Greek thinkers; these Platonic ideas, which of necessity would mean shackling the spirit of man, are concepts which have continued down through the ages and which exist today. Indeed enthusiastic men have put these ideas into place: look to the recent past and places such as Germany and Russia: look today to such places such as Iran and Iraq.
It is only under collectivism that egotistical tyrants emerge. Arthur Seldon:
The first glint of knowledge will often ignite the imaginations of people. Their imaginations become turgid with glorious ideas. Some will proceed to take leadership positions for themselves and then proceed to dispense nostrums for the ills of mankind: we should do this or we should do that. As far as I am concerned, such salvationists have a perfect right to express their views. What I urge is that they should be kept clear of the levers of government power. John Stuart Mill:
"... ambitious politicians with no convictions will be tempted to prolong it [big government]. Conservatives have been hardly less guilty than socialists. The obvious solution now is to limit the power of all politicians to the essential minimum. Public choice indicates constitutional disciplines on politicians to inhibit their natural proclivities."2
"... the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or to forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because in the opinions of others to do so would be wise or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else."3
1 Thomas Jefferson [1743-1826], Notes on Virginia, 1782.
2 Capitalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991) p. 163.
3 On Liberty, ch. 1.