Tuesday, December 30, 2008


A Circle of Ideologies

We tend, perhaps incorrectly, to think of ideologies as points on a line. Moderation is a point, or rather a region, near the midpoint of the line. Moving to the left we come to progressivism, liberalism, socialism, communism, anarchism, and so on. Moving to the right we come to conservatism, extreme conservatism, and so on. Someone pointed out to me many years ago that the extremes on this line tend to be very similar. I therefore posit that the line isn't a straight line but rather a circle. Moderation is a point or region on the circle. Diametrically opposite is a region of anarchism.

Both the extreme right and the extreme left in politics abhor large government. The Communists believed that if private property could be eliminated, the state would simply wither away because there would be nothing for it to do. They thought of the state as the protector of property rights, especially those of the rich. Conservatives like Grover Norquist and the late Howard Jarvis also believed in a small state that didn't do much. Ultimately their ideal was anarchy or a stateless society.

Without a state there would be no taxes to vex the rich. Whatever services were available to the public would be paid for by fees charged for service. If you want to borrow a book from the library, or even go to the library to read a book or magazine, you would pay a fee. If your house was on fire, you would pay a fee to a fire brigade to put it out. If you got sick, you would pay a fee to the doctor and to the nurses that took care of you.

I don't know of any region that has functioned as a society without a government. In Somalia there is no central government and things aren't very good there. I do know of a society that existed with a weak government in which taxes were low and one had to pay fees or bribes for such services as obtaining license plates for your car. In the case of that society, inflation had wiped out much of the value of the currency. However, government officials were still paid according to the pre-inflation scale. In order to make ends meet, they had to solicit fees (bribes) from people who needed their services.

Communism was tried in Russia. It became corrupt and finally failed. It seems to me that the same fate will overtake any experiment in conservative "small government." Conservative small government lets enterpreneurs do whatever they want. It encourages originality. We have seen recently some examples of originality and absence of government supervision. It is my opinion that small government will lead to corruption, just as Communism led to corruption.

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