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The impossibility of utopia through polity

February 25, 2011

Politics can be accurately described as individuals with power attempting to bend law and reality to legislative will.  Human behavior and the economic fact of scarcity is expected to conform and act in accordance with the social policy and political philosophy of whichever political party controls the government bureaucracy.  Rather than attempt to construct a polity to serve individuals and society and restrict human avarice and license, the political arena has transmogrified into a panoptic parent, expected to fix, protect, provide and mold individuals and society into a rigid frame.

Reliance on a monolithic polity to care for its citizens is not only inefficient, but dangerous.  By overreaching its proper realm, legislation makes a mockery of law and harms its respectability.  Cicero said “more laws, less justice;” when legislation intrudes into the mundane lives of individuals and carries greater responsibility, a slackening of personal responsibility, incentive and initiative inevitably arises.  Previous actions and responsibilities held by individuals and communities shift to burden the polity.  The increased power and scope leads not only to market intervention, but hampers social liberty.

Society is separate and distinct from polity.  It is as foolhardy to expect a Paradise on Earth through political action as much as through economic action; such thinking ignores that an economy or polity is nothing more than an institution constructed to serve society.   Glossing over this recognition damages societal vibrancy and atrophies the polity; it can hardly manage its basic duties competently, let alone the numerous tasks it is now assigned.  Infusion of state power corrupts any societal institution, be it church, economy or society.

While the striving for utopia through the use of state power may be laudable,  honest ideas cannot redeem harmful consequences.  F.A. Hayek wrote in The Fatal Conceit, “the curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”  Rigorous theory does not perfectly translate into an improvement in reality; the impossibility of aggregating scattered and incomplete knowledge into the hands of the few  throughout the many in society may limit what can legitimately  be accomplished through human design.

However, this is not to take a cynical view toward human progress and ability. The recognition of limitations on social structures and achievements allow society to avoid pitfalls that lead to regression while holding a reverent, but critical, opinion on tradition.  Instead of placing the fault on a minority seen as greedy or saboteurs, societal structures can be re-examined and attempts to fix a social problem can be more effective.  Such a view also preserves the dignity and liberty of the individual to prosper and improve society while lessening the damage caused by harmful action.   Spontaneous experimentation by individuals and organizations yield better results than a bureaucratic, centralized approach by a politically-controlled department or foundation.  Naturally, experimentation will not lead to the perfect society, but it will yield results that improve on tradition and societal cohesion.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 10, 2011 12:09 am

    It’s interesting to see this point of view. I can’t say fore sure if I agree or not, but it is something I will think about now.

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