The Inhuman Government
by Daniel Greenfield
One of the great errors of big government liberalism is its belief that inhuman systems are superior to human beings. This form of mechanical thinking is a commonplace error in a scientific age in which we have become used to using mechanical systems to solve problems. But people are not machines, and trying to turn people into gears in the great machine of government leads to tragic results.
The embrace of big government in the United States was driven by the belief in scientific government as a perfectible system. This creepy worship of elitist technocracy lingers around the more idealistic liberal administrations, from FDR to JFK to Obama. Always followed by a list of PhD's and degree holders in the cabinet revealing a failure to understand that higher education does not make one immune from human flaws. The idea of a perfected government is at odds with democracy, which treats political chaos and voter misjudgments as valid tradeoffs for a leash on government. It worships the idea of government, rather than the reality of government. An egotistical exercise for policy wonks certain that the right people can set everything to right, regardless of what the people as a whole might think about it.
ObamaCare showed us the ugly spectacle of elitist government and its supporters, dismissing and ignoring the democratic objections of the public as the clamor of an ignorant and dangerous rabble. That is how tyrants throughout history have viewed public protest. It is not however the response of a democratic government to the will of the majority. It is how those who view their policy endgame as a superior ideal to the will of the people, think and act. And that is shorthand for tyranny.
To argue that government gets its authority not from representative democracy, but from the purity of their policymaking is to create an ideological tyranny. It is the deathblow of democracy. And yet that is exactly what the raison d'etre of the Obama Administration has been. Government as god, dispensing the blessings of its policymaking to the unworthy hoi polloi, the great unwashed who don't know enough to go green, buy health insurance and read the Huffington Post. And when those who govern feel themselves to be superior to those they govern, they divest power from the people, and invest it in systems under their own control. And so big government grows even bigger.
Where the Founders viewed Constitutional government as a kind of anti-system, an inoculation against government that was meant to keep in its place, liberalism has come to view government as the ultimate tool that can do anything. Government as a Swiss Army Knife of course leads to even bigger government. Where the Bill of Rights tried to restrain the role of government by creating legal DMZ's where its authority could not extend, subsequent Supreme Courts and legislatures have in some cases eroded and in other cases eradicated those DMZ's in the name of the public good. The public good of course not being defined by the public, but by the branches of government itself.
The dangerous fascination with systems is a hallmark of inhuman government. That is because those who love systems the most, distrust human beings. Representative Democracy works on the understanding that people are flawed, and that those flaws are nevertheless who we are. Tyranny on the other hand insists that the right person can rule the mob for their own good. Modern liberalism with its progressive ideas of government, insists that the right system can bring equality and teach everyone to be better people under the all-encompassing arm of the nanny state.
To think that way, you first have to define human beings as the problem. Where the Constitution defined government as the problem, the modern day rulers view the limitations of the Constitution as an irritating remnant of paranoid landholders, with as much relevance as the Magna Carta. It may be paid lip service to, so long as it isn't taken too seriously. Because they know that the real problem are the people. Which is how it is from the perspective of rulers. The system to them is a tool for controlling the real problem, the people.
The system of course isn't human. Or rather it's as human as its strongest elements and as inhuman as its weakest elements. A strong controlling figure in a system humanizes it for good or ill. That is why a system is only as good or bad as the people who hold authority within it. That reduces the system once more to the human frailties of those who hold power in the system. Corrupt officials will corrupt a system. Because the system is them writ large. But the bigger a system gets, the less human it becomes. That is because its size diminishes the ability of individuals to influence its full scope. Instead the system begins to run on scripts. Scripts define how those serving within the system will react to events. Which leads to the painful inflexibility and rigidity of bureaucracies, as men and women who have been trained to respond like machines, try to cope with a crisis.
The bigger a system gets, the less human it is. It becomes increasingly automated. A machine that grows in order to grow. It makes collective decisions that are incredibly bad, and yet unavoidable, because they are no longer the product of people, but of a living machine. Like a dinosaur, it is slow and plodding. It resists change and yet it is constantly making plans that it is incapable of carrying out. It has no sense of purpose, because purpose is a human quality. Instead it has physical properties which guide its mechanical responses to challenges. This inhumanity leads to the cruel tyranny of the system, whose very cruelty derives from its deafness to human sensibilities. In attempting to create a perfect system, the advocates of scientific government instead create Frankenstein's Monster, a creature that has power over men, but is not human.
Nor is the Inhuman System an improvement over the human one. That is because it still has no mind of its own. Instead it has to follow the instructions scripted by those in power. The delay between the instructions and the problem are what make it inhuman. As it grows, its structure makes it increasingly more difficult to script. That is when the monster comes alive sufficiently enough to protect its own survival, at the expense of its host. It consumes resources, draws more and more power into itself, so that it is at once indispensable and ungovernable. The embedded bureaucracy within a system function as its neurons, relaying information without being able to act independently on it. Like a living corpse, the system keeps moving, but it cannot do anything but consume. It was designed as a tool for solving problems, but it has become one big problem.
Rules are the scripts of the system, but rules may be made by humans, but once humans cease to intelligently administer them, they too become inhuman. The law in abstract has no regard for humanity, only for the odds. And the more a system grows, the less regard it has for human intervention from juries or elected officials. Human beings are too unpredictable to fit into a system, unless their behavior is a known quantity. And the only way to make human behavior into a known quantity is by limiting their choices, controlling their minds and enforcing a desired outcome. Which becomes the purpose of the system.
Since no system can properly accommodate human individuality, the system chases after its subjects with more rules. As human beings adapt to the rules, more rules are required. As new rules are brought into being to modify the old rules, the result is a system with endless rules that fewer people pay attention to. Crime becomes law, and law becomes crime. Everyone is constantly in violation of the rules, and depends on human intervention to protect them from the system. The government at this point has become utterly corrupted. It exists to administer shadow networks of interests who dispense bribes and receive favors in return. The system itself no longer works, because it has parted ways with humanity. Instead the system is a piggy bank for the elite and a dangerous obstacle for the general public to avoid. This is the destiny of all big government before its collapse. To become a threat to the people it ruled over and a toy for those who rule over it.
The inhuman government which replaced representative democracy, with the elitism of the system itself, inevitably reverts to tribalism and common criminality, because family and base self-interest are the fundamental glue that remains when all other conventional values of citizenship have been destroyed. The implosion of the system reverts humanity backward to a more primitive stage and in doing so begins the cycle all over again.
Larger systems are not the solution to human problems, and a system is only as good as it is human. It is not rules that make systems work, but people that do. Systems strive for perfectibility, but humans are inherently imperfect. Our errors are the product of who we are, and a system that denies that, denies humanity. The rule bound system assumes that humans are the problem, and opens a gap between itself and the human reality, and in doing so tears a gap in the fabric of government. To believe that people are the problem is to surrender our humanity to anyone who can promise a better system. But people are governed best by human systems which offer a tactile sense of consequences, rather than systems built on ideals and destroyed by their inherent detachment from the human reality and the oppressive totalitarianism that results from this. The inhuman government cannot build a utopia. Nor should that be the goal. It is not systems that build people, but people who build systems. To forget that is to give in to the tyrannical impulse and become less than human.