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Re-blogged post: People vs. Government

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People vs. Government:

It is very popular to blame our government and our politicians for our problems. Here's a poster that speaks to the idea.



Yes, there are many people in almost every country who are ideologically close to me. There are millions of Iranians who are not radical Islamists. There are thousands of Iranians who are well-educated, widely-read, and truly cosmopolitan, yearning for much greater freedom. Ideologically, this minority of Iranians even hold better ideas than the average American. Left to their devices they would elect a better government than the average American would.

The graphic asks the reader to focus on this concrete truth, and draws its appeal from that truth. The world over, true lovers of freedom are brethren in spirit. They are closer to each other than to most of their fellow countrymen.

Don't generalize: However, it is also important not to generalize this as being true of all Iranians. The government of Iran is not like North Korea. While it is a dictatorship that might well be thrown out in a free-election, it also has a sizable -- if minority -- base among its population. Yes, the "people vs. government" meme has a basis, but we must not exaggerate the divide. The Iranian government did not appear by magic, quite apart from the wishes of a certain sizable number of its people. Many of these people are poor, ignorant folk, but ... their ignorance does not change the fact that they are the cause behind the existence of the regime. Most of them are not the prime-movers, but they have thrown their support behind those who are.

The U.S. gets the government it deserves: As for the U.S., the "people vs. government" meme breaks down completely. The U.S. gets the government it deserves. The U.S. government is a mix that is generally representative of the ideological mix of the voters.

Applied to the U.S., I particularly dislike the "government vs. people" meme because it throws blame upon the wrong people: i.e. politicians. Don't simply blame Obama or Sarah Palin or Gingrich or Romney. There are voters who found Obama inspiring, and voters who find Sarah Palin inspiring. These people are the truly guilty. These people are the ones for whom that poster above does *not* ring true.

Regular Americans: And then there are many American voters who do not find any politicians inspiring and do not even like most of them. Yet, neither do they have a firm and moral idea of what the politics of their country ought to be. Instead, they hold a grab-bag of good and bad ideas absorbed over the years: some ideas about freedom, mixed in with a lot of statist ideas. As a whole, the vast majority of Americans (and Iranians) have an incorrect notion of the nature and purpose of government. The ignorance of regular Americans does not change the fact that they are the cause behind the existence of their government.

Their false idea about the very nature and purpose of government is the bedrock that makes their specific governments and laws possible. It is the vast majority of voters who are responsible, for holding these ideas and for acting on them. These are not some schemingly-evil people; these are my acquaintances and friends who think their ideas are just and moral. In the U.S., this vast majority give us the government we have. Given freedom in Iran, their vast majority would give them a government that is statist too (even if it were much freer than what they have today).

Support for statist policies is everywhere: Social security will go bankrupt if it is not changed; yet, it is the "third rail" or American politics. Voters pay lip-service to cutting deficits, but even many "tea-party" supporters don't really want too many cuts. They think social security is a fundamentally moral idea. A large percentage of American voters want to restrict a woman's right to an abortion. They think that abortion is unjust; even murder. There is widespread support for the idea that the government should fund K-12 education. There is widespread support for progressive taxes: on "millionaires". They see this as just and moral. One can go on.. voters want to force employers to pay a minimum wage, they want to keep out immigrants to seek jobs in the U.S., and so on.

The bottom line: if you live in the U.S., your government has been brought to you courtesy of all your neighbors, and fellow students, and co-workers. If you have to blame someone, start with them.


Blog cross-posted with permission. See link at top of post for original.

Edited by softwareNerd
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