Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Golden Rule Applied to Government Intervention

Special interest groups are constantly clamoring for government intervention. They are simply doing what is in their best interest, so I feel the government is more culpable for it. They repeatedly shown that they their will is easy to bend when confronted with a loud enough voice or when enough money is involved.

But taking things a bit further, the core problem is that most people only want the government to intervene in THEIR favor. Most people are decidedly authoritarian when a thing affects another's rights, but decidedly libertarian when it affects their own rights. This seems to be the "natural" way that we humans operate. What people don't often realize, though, is that the system is so interconnected that the violation of their neighbor's rights leads to the violation of their own rights.

When a person advocates intervention X, which may be favorable to him, he is also potentially laying the framework and precedence for intervention Y, which may not be so favorable to them. To use an image from the riots that occurred in the 1960's, they are throwing tear gas canisters, not realizing they will just be picked up and thrown back.

I believe we should apply a form of the Golden Rule to government intervention. "Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do To You" could be rephrased and applied to this by saying (in a long, run-on sentence): "Your advocacy of government intervention should be limited to cases where you'd be happy with roughly similar sorts of treatment on roughly similar types of issues that more directly restrict your life.". By applying this maxim, sometimes we will miss opportunities to act in what appears to be our best interest, but ultimately it will be for our own good because we will be consistently upholding the matter of individual liberty in politics.

If our society had more people who think like this, we would tend to have a freer, less polarized society. And a lot of money could be saved. It wouldn't be perfect, but most likely every segment of society would be more fulfilled that they are now, except of course the segment (whoever it may be) that takes a special delight in using legislation for the purpose denying the satisfaction of others.

To apply this to modern society.. You (or I) may not like having people in our society using pesticides, being selfish, smoking cigarettes, driving gas guzzling cars, growing questionable plants, having certain unpopular opinions, donating to questionable organizations, eating unhealthy foods, adhering to a false religion, drinking alcohol, being greedy, etc. But before we think about using government to try to intervene in those matters, we better think long and hard about how we might be empowering and encouraging the government in a way that will cause them to feel more free to restrict things that we treasure, enjoy and/or believe in. You can't just increase the power of the government to do good without also simultaneously increasing their power to do evil.

I think a great way to conclude this would be to paraphrase what a great statesman once said: I'd rather put up with the inconveniences of too much liberty rather than the inconveniences of not enough liberty.

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