Tuesday, December 24, 2013

government exists to support the best instincts and constrain the worst instincts of the citizenry

Collective action is a great thing when the action involved is well considered, and in such cases the involvement of government in some capacity is frequently appropriate.

Mob-like action, on the other hand, demands an altogether different sort of involvement from government, even when it occurs on the floor of a stock exchange or in the executive offices of America's largest coroporations.

One of central myths of our society is that "greed is good" (so long as you play by the rules in pursuing it), that, on balance, it results in more benefit than damage generally. While this may seem an iffy proposition, it's one that most of us have more or less agreed to provisionally pretend is true, so government comes down on the side of supporting a little greed here and there, with the details depending significantly upon which party is in power at the moment, and only constraining cases where it's clearly gone over the top, again with the details being party-dependent. So long as government doesn't become either too much a matter of providing favors to friends and allies, or too negligent, this is actually a passably workable situation.

The predicament we find ourselves in at the moment, is that we have been sold the notion that greed without limit or concomitant responsibility is good, combined with the notion that the aspiration to flatten the distribution of income and wealth is some sort of social disease.

What worries me in the discussion about the secret operation of agencies such as the NSA, is the possibility that they might view their role as serving this twisted version of American values.

We are too big and interconnected a society, with far too much momentum, to rely upon revolution as a remedy for a government gone Tory. We must make our institutions work properly.

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