Original Sin and Guns

“You know, obviously, if he comes inside the residence and assaults you, can you ask him to go away?”

That’s the advice that a 911 operator gave a woman who called to report a break-in last year. Having explained that “I don’t have anybody to send out there” (the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office is closed on weekends, of course) the public servant offered the victim this shrewd counsel.

It was, apparently, of little practical use to the woman, who was choked and raped by the intruder ten minutes later.

Girl-at-RangeConsider the operator’s suggestion in the context of the gun debate. Supporters of gun control legislation – about half of the country – wholly predicate their arguments on two assumptions: 1). We can trust the government to provide for our personal safety, and 2).  It’s safer to cooperate with an attacker than to resist them.

Both of these ideas were very much at play in the Josephine County case. In their cultural context, in fact, the 911 operator’s violently naive statements really ought to be unsurprising.

It’s not hard to see where gun control advocates might derive these assumptions. If the first is true, we can expect elected officials to be virtuous. In other words, a decision-making body will tend towards increasingly moral choices as it grows to include more human beings.

If the second is true, criminals are not particularly interested in harming you. Home invaders do not have a human desire to do violence, but purely financial motives brought about by outside circumstance.

imagesThe ultimate foundation of gun control advocacy, then, is the notion that man is good. If this premise is true, in fact, it actually makes the arguments for gun control rather compelling.

But it is not true. In fact, it’s so plainly and calamitously wrong that it must take some intellect to trick oneself into believing it. I’d say, moreover, that no doctrine in human history has been responsible for more evil than the notion that man is good.

Last month, I happened upon Gina Luttrell’s column “Guns Aren’t the Answer to Rape.” Luttrell concludes her piece by cutting right to the core of the gun dispute.

Suggests that people are “naturally” rapists

I will be the first person to admit and to say, that rape, just like any other kind of violence, is not going to be completely eradicated from our society. However, again, if you look at the claim that women should simply be armed in order to prevent their own rape, there is a fundamental assumption in there that rape is natural, can happen at any time, and that we should just prevent against it like we do a cold or natural disasters. You’re basically assuming that people (and, implicitly, men, although of course men are not the only ones who rape) are inherently rapists. And that certainly is a disturbing thought.

Though Luttrell’s analysis of the gun divide is spot-on, it’s unclear how she chose her side. She gives us no reason to think that rape is entirely environmental except that the alternative is disturbing. Conversely, I can point out that dolphins and orangutans are known to commit violent rapes. Likewise, testosterone has been shown to reduce empathy and is found at high levels in rapists.

earthquake-4-sep10-0073Perhaps Luttrell is equating the natural with the good. Admittedly, if I heard the statement “rape is natural” in isolation, I might assume the speaker was offering a moral defense of rape. Yet Luttrell has dealt eloquently with this problem already: disease and earthquakes are natural. And while most of us are now aware of this fact, we have not become apologists for malaria or Krakatoa.

Moreover, we are given the power to save many people from both of these horrors – to “just prevent against it” – by our knowledge of their origin: the natural processes of a flawed world. Medicine and disaster-preparedness would be less successful if we instead pretended that the world is otherwise than it is.

There is little need for liberty if there is no cause for cynicism. John Adams said that he distrusted rulers because he perceived “danger from all men.” We should be glad that Adams had this cynical temperament; otherwise, we might be even less free than we are today.

We should carry arms, then, because a world of perfect safety is not possible – and because we couldn’t trust politicians to create one if it were.

Stand With Kansas

“John Brown was a hero
undauted, true and brave
Kansas knew his valor
When he fought her rights to save.”
John’s Brown Body

3890603881_20c4c553b1_zOn April 16th, the governor of Kansas signed Senate Bill 102 – perhaps the most libertarian piece of legislation I’ve seen in my life. The new Second Amendment Protection Act exempts Kansan firearms from “any federal law, regulation, or authority.” Not just particularly repressive federal laws, mind you. Any federal law. 

Should a federal agent try to impose a national gun law on Kansas gun owners, he will be charged with violating the statute. If found guilty, he may be arrested by Kansas law enforcement. In my home state, transgressing the Second Amendment is now a felony offense.

Unfortunately, not everyone found this news as delightful as I did. Two weeks after Governor Sam Brownback signed SB 102, a less pleasant document found its way to the governor’s desk: an angry letter from Eric Holder.

The reliably creepy attorney general proclaimed “S.B. 102 directly conflicts with federal law and is therefore unconstitutional.” Holder threatened to “take all appropriate action, including litigation if necessary, to prevent the State of Kansas from interfering with the activities of federal officials enforcing federal law.”

Kansas, however, took up the attorney general’s Orwellian gauntlet. On May 2nd, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach informed the attorney general that we’re not in New York anymore, rather brazenly calling Eric Holder a hypocrite and a criminal and writing “With respect to any litigation, we will happily meet Mr. Holder in court.” Governor Brownback also made a statement, adding “The people of Kansas have clearly expressed their sovereign will.”

hf-john-brownAlthough this defiance has given me an exceptional pride in my state, it’s part of a long tradition of Kansan resistance to tyranny. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act ordered free states to capture escaped slaves and extradite them back to the south. The act inspired a rising abolitionist named John Brown to form the League of Gileadites – an anti-slavery militia that fought back against government-sanctioned slave catchers. It was in Kansas that Brown’s insurrection finally and famously came to a head.

If you imagine that I’m trivializing slavery by comparing it to gun control, consider the function of gun rights. Every freedom imaginable, including the right to control your own body, is entirely conditional upon the right to defend it.  Depriving someone of arms is uniquely unjust: it constitutes a blank check on any other evil to which an armed – or otherwise physically stronger – person might wish to subject you.

Holder’s letter, moreover, very clearly says “S.B. 102 directly conflicts with federal law and is therefore unconstitutional.” If this is true, statues like Ohio’s 1857 Act to Prevent Kidnapping – used by some states to nullify the Fugitive Slave Act – were no less unconstitutional. Doubtless this was the argument used by Holder’s counterpart in the 1850s. I’m no constitutional scholar, but even if Holder were correct, that would only mean we ought to throw out the constitution entirely.

Yet the attorney general has at least one friend in Kansas. Yael Abouhalkah – one of the Kansas City Star’s lockstep slew of scribblers – recently boasted that Kansas police would not dare to actually arrest a federal agent. I’m sure that’s true in the two or three counties of Kansas that Abouhalkah has ever set foot in. But, as Abouhalkah himself points out:

Unless, of course, a Kansas law enforcement official actually takes the law seriously and tries to arrest a federal agent. Then all hell will break loose.

Abouhalkahh should have realized that this aside cancels out the premise of his column. On this final point, he’s essentially correct: for Kansas, securing the right to self-defense will require only that one Kansan officer take a stand for it. If that happens, it will be imperative that advocates of liberty around the country stand with the Sunflower State.

I’ve recently seen a number of libertarians point to Colorado’s and Washington’s legalizations of marijuana as modern libertarianism’s most promising front. While marijuana laws are a critical issue, I’d advise these libertarians not to ignore the Midwest so readily. The fundamental importance of gun rights aside, I’ve yet to see Colorado or Washington threaten to arrest federal agents who contravene their “sovereign will.”

Like the recent Republican filibuster of Brennan’s nomination, Kansas’ Second Amendment Protection Act – and the widespread support it garnered in Topeka – point to the liberty movement’s most promising path to victory: focusing on those with whom we have the most basic overlap.

Explaining the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution reads as follows:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The story goes that the ‘Founding Fathers’ wrote this amendment to be placed in the ‘Bill of Rights’ as to ensure that the free people of the United States may take up arms against foreign invasion or against their own government, if the need so arises. If read properly, the amendment states that ‘A well regulated Militia’ and ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms’ are both not to be infringed. Many gun-control advocates point to the wording of this amendment and say: ‘HA! See? Even in your precious second amendment, it says well regulated!’ Quite frankly, this is either intellectual dishonesty or intellectual laziness.

The fact of the matter is that the wording of this amendment is very specific and was done so intentionally. The verb ‘well regulated’ modifies ‘Militia’, but does not modify ‘right of the people to keep and bear Arms’, or more specifically, ‘Arms.’ The phrase attached to the end of amendment then necessarily modifies both the first and second parts of the sentence, saying that neither the existence of a well regulated Militia or the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall be infringed.

In the context of the rest of the Constitution, the existence of a well regulated militia pertains to the existence of militias that exist in peace time put forward by the states within the Union. The framers wished for militias to be well regulated as to ensure that they may be called upon during war time/invasion. Standing armies were never meant to exist, and technically, standing armies during peace time are not permitted under the Constitution. As shown in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution:

The congress shall have the power to […]

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress[]”

Here, one can see how the framers worded the power of the Congress to raise an army and limits Congress to appropriating money to the army for no longer than two years. Navies, however, are to be maintained by the Congress; this is the only military branch that is expressly allowed to be operating during peace time.

What is the most important part of Section 8 is the wording of Congress’ power over the Militia, in which the Congress may call forth the Militia to ‘suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions’ as well as organizing and training the Militia. The Militia that is being repeatedly referred to are the states’ militias, in which the power to appoint officers and training of the militias shall be reserved to the states respectively (as to be outlined by the Congress, again refer to Section 8 of Article 1).

Ah! We have finally reached our point. Kind of tricky, huh? The well regulated Militia being referred to in the Second Amendment (which is preceded by Article 1, Section 8) is, in fact, the collective Militia of the States. The Framers originally establish the existence of, and the regulations that coincide with, the Militias raised by the States which, in times of need, may be called upon by Congress to suppress insurrections and repel invasions. In writing the Second Amendment, the framers merely reiterate the fact that this collective Militia (the militias raised by the respective states of the Union) shall be well regulated per the guidelines referred to in Section 8. In the Second Amendment, the Framers make it clear that the existence of such a Militia shall not be infringed.

This whole issue about regulations and militias (which, admittedly, took quite some time to sort out) is separate from the right of the people to keep and bear arms. I would like to emphasize the dichotomy of the two. The well regulated Militia, AND the right of the people to keep and bear arms, are respectively modified by the phrase ‘shall not be infringed.’ Therefore, the modifier ‘well regulated’, which directly modifies its subject (Militia), does NOT apply to the right to keep and bear arms. Thus, as per the second amendment, the right to keep and bear Arms as well as the right to join a well regulated Militia shall not be infringed. 

Winning Is Not Compromising

“This war on drugs is totally out of control. If you want to regulate cigarettes and alcohol and drugs, it should be at the state level. That’s where I stand on it. The federal government has no prerogatives on this.” – Ron Paul (source).

If there’s anything Rand Paul can do well, it’s fire up debate among libertarians. As of recently, hilariously satirized by Steve Heidenreich on this site, libertarians are up in (theoretical, non-aggressive) arms in response to comments Paul made to a group of pastors in Iowa that some read as him “loving the drug war.”

“To some, ‘libertarian’ scares people. “Some of them come up to me and they say, ‘I kind of like you, but I don’t like legalizing heroin.’ And I say, ‘Well, that’s not my position.’ I’m not advocating everyone go out and run around with no clothes on and smoke pot. I’m not a libertarian. I’m a libertarian Republican. I’m a constitutional conservative”

Let’s crucify him today!

For God’s sake, let’s definitely not examine his comments with any degree of critical thought to see how well they line up with libertarian philosophy. Because if we step back from our hysterical Rand Paul hate, it is clear that, while not as strictly libertarian as some, Rand Paul’s views are very much in line with what they’ve always been – and with a small government philosophy.

Rand Paul has been very vocal in his support for ending federal drug laws. In April, Paul gave a scathing statement on mandatory minimum laws, one of the biggest travesties of injustice to come from the drug war. Telling the story of two men (George W. Bush and Barack Obama) who recreationally used drugs as young men, Paul argued that mandatory minimums, and imprisonment for marijuana use, can deprive the world of future leaders and ruin people’s lives unjustly. “In this story, both young men were extraordinarily lucky. Both young men were not caught using illegal drugs, and they weren’t imprisoned. Instead, they went on to become presidents of the United States. Barack Obama and George Bush were lucky.”

Wow, what a great voice for liberty he’d be if he’d only make a video of himself using illegal drugs!

Is it possible to not “love the drug war” and also not support legalization of all drugs on all levels of government? Of course it is. The term itself (Drug War) refers to federal prohibition, mandatory minimums, omnibus crime bills, and other such federal expansion over the area of crime laws traditionally left to the states, into which the federal leviathan began encroaching the 1970s and 1980s. Ron Paul, like Rand Paul, has always supported leaving such issues to the states. Both Pauls believe that states should be free to legalize drugs if they want. Ron Paul, like Rand Paul, is no supporter of drug use.

That’s not to say that Rand and Ron Paul are the same. There are differences among libertarians just as there are differences between any group of people. People – even fathers and sons – disagree, and we shouldn’t hold them to unrealistic standards of agreeing with us on everything if we are to consider them “intellectually pure” enough. If we do, libertarianism will continue to be persuasive only to those who already agree, and who, by and large, do not vote anyway. Winning is not compromising liberty. Self-insular irrelevancy should not be our goal.

This attitude totally wins over thousands of new libertarians every day.

If you disagree with this picture, you’re a statist.

Finally, it is very disappointing to see libertarians blindly accepting what the media says about Rand Paul just because they don’t like him. Libertarians should know better than anyone not to take what the media says at face value, but we blindly accept that Rand Paul “loves the drug war” now – a position completely different than everything he’s stood for in the past – based on the inference of a reporter who provides no quotes from Paul to back this up. The only quote in the article shows that he feels state governments should have the prerogative to ban drugs, just like his father. This is neither surprising nor new.

If libertarians are to ever shake the stereotype that we are basement-dwelling, pot-smoking, jobless college kids, we have to think carefully about our knee-jerk reactions to people who happen to hold more personally conservative views than some of us do. Critical disagreement is fine. Rejecting anyone who holds more politically prudent views than other libertarians is unwise. Blind acceptance of anything the media says, as long as it’s about someone we don’t like, is intellectual dishonesty.

Unnaming the Government: Public Choice Theory

Forewarning: this article is a bit dense.

I was initially inspired to write this piece by Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story entitled, “She Unnames Them”.  I had to read it for an interdisciplinary studies course, and this piece is actually a reworking of a paper that I wrote for that course.  While I have thought about the topics herein before, I thought that the way Le Guin framed her deconstruction of names to be particularly insightful, even if it is a fairly short story.  Here is a link to the story if you’d like a little more perspective with respect to where I’m coming from in this approach.  It really is short.  Also, before anyone asks, yes, I read a fictional story about Adam and Eve naming and unnaming creatures, and what I got out of it was an anarchic, anti-government argument. 🙂

Right, back to the point.  The government, too, is naught but a name, and it is a name that can be deconstructed in what I find to be an important way.  Government’s deconstruction results in nothing more than us, yet it seeks to be our very cure.  Moreover, governments are granted unique abilities to do things that individuals would never be permitted to do outside of the guise of government.  Governments can levy tax, imprison, conscript, declare war, etc.  This only grants further room for abuse.  In this piece, I will attempt to argue that government is not only a repackaged ailment masquerading as its own cure but that it is, more detrimentally, just a concentrated version of the ailment itself – and one that seems only able to fall into the wrong hands.  It’s a false remedy that we may very well be shielding ourselves from realizing.

Public choice theory takes a rather unique approach to political science in that it applies economic theory and its principles to the entire field of political science.  It does this by painting the field of politics as a facet of the market, and it presumes politicians, bureaucrats, and the average voter as market actors.  One of its principle assumptions is that all of these market actors are, in the political realm, motivated chiefly by their own self-interest, just as it is theorized that market actors are in the economic realm.  A major criticism of the theory, though, is lobbed at that very assumption.  The criticism is that it paints that assumption with too broad of a brush; even if many people are motivated in that way, that does not mean that everyone is.  However, I think that if one takes a step back and reduces the theory to a useful, generalized heuristic rather than a rule that encompasses every human motivation, then I think that the criticism can be largely avoided.  I also think that the theory is best used that way, regardless.  There is no need to assert that such is always the case.  All that needs to be shown is that it is normally the case, and that should be reason enough to illicit concern.

Now, if that concern is valid, and if politicians are elected in order to serve the public good, yet are chiefly motivated by their own self-interest, that ostensibly leaves the door wide open for conflicts of interest to arise. One could try to mitigate this problem by claiming that reelection is also in the best interest of any politician, stipulating that not living up to the public’s expectations would be detrimental to their reelection.  I think that this position is rather juvenile upon reflection, though, in that it gives far more credit to the voting populace than what even a cursory examination of modern political history calls for.

Under ideal conditions, such would be the case, certainly.  We do not live under ideal conditions, however.  Under ideal conditions, the concept of a government would be entirely unnecessary as everyone would already know what to do.  The non-president James Buchanan, one of the theory’s founding thinkers, said, public choice theory is “politics without romance”.  It isn’t about saying that the emperor ought to wear clothes; it’s about showing how the emperor does not wear clothes, irrespective of whether or not he or she should.  That is another, much more moralistic matter entirely.  While the theory does tend to pull at the strings of one’s ethical dispositions, that’s merely a side effect of having such dispositions.  The aim of the theory is not to condemn contemporary politics in some sort of moralistic light but rather to attempt to more accurately analyze it.

One of the things that the theory is arguably the best at accounting for is the paradox of regulatory capture, and I only call it a paradox to be charitable.  The government’s chief role, which many agree with, is to regulate.  The government regulates in all sorts of ways, but it always does so under the pretense of protecting the public good.  It is for this very reason that regulatory capture is paradoxical.  If the government is meant to regulate for the public good, and the government’s regulators consist chiefly of men and women that are from the institutions that the government is meant to regulate, then what real regulatory work is being done?  To borrow from the overused old adage, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (who will watch the watchers?), who will regulate the regulators?

The worst part is not even that these entities are—quite rationally—gaming the system and escaping real regulation but the fact that they can and do use their regulatory positions to regulate their competition.  They can force and maintain de jure monopolies and oligopolies by crushing their competition without having to compete with them in the open economic market.  Using regulation to their advantage, such market actors not only can crush extant competition but can also extinguish new, potential competition before it can make its way into the market.  This is clearly evidenced by all of the subsidization that the government pays for.  It’s the larger firms that benefit the most.  They also enforce regulations that only an already large and well established corporation can afford to adhere to.  So, yes, some regulation might be going through, but most of it is regulation that only further secures the already advantaged groups—big business.  Instead of government working as a deterrent to those that would abuse without regulation, it can be easily manipulated into a crutch for abusive entities that would otherwise falter to competition in an open market.

That is not to say that I advocate for a free market necessarily but rather that it at least seems preferable to the apparent Chinese finger-trap that is (captured) regulation.  Government regulation is not some self-realizable, ontologically independent force to be reckoned with.  It is a tool that needs hands to wield it.  Even under ideal conditions, human beings must be in charge of the regulation.  When the regulation’s goal is to disadvantage your own position in any way, then what better idea is there than to take the reins of regulation yourself?  Moreover, what better idea is there when not only can you save yourself from being disadvantaged (in the long run) by taking the regulatory reins, but you can even incapacitate your competition by doing so.  For the ardent egoist, it’s just the logical position.  Abuse or be abused.

Last semester, I attended a conference that had a mini-lecture on public choice theory.  In it, the presenter, one Geoffrey Lea, was adamant in stating that problems like regulatory capture and others that are endemic to government intervention are not symptoms of a flawed system that is reparable; they are “features” of an irreparable system.  His exact words were, “feature, not a bug.”  Government is necessarily set up in such a way that it is ripe for abuse.  Those that wish to do so will always have more to gain than those who do not.  Not only does their own self-interest typically grant them a much stronger drive, they will also have an easier time getting into office because they lack the moral qualms that anyone who did not wish to abuse the system would have.  They are not only fine with abusing the system once it has been infiltrated, but they are just as fine with abusing their way into the system by virtually any means necessary.

Furthermore, their position within the system is seemingly safeguarded by another one of public choice theory’s political hypotheses: rational ignorance.  To briefly sum up its essence, rational ignorance occurs when the cost of learning about any particular item outweighs the perceived benefit.  In public choice theory, rational ignorance is inextricably linked to voter apathy.  If a voter does not think that his or her decision will make much of a difference—if any at all—in the long run, then what reason do they have to bother spending an adequate amount of time attempting to inform themselves on voter issues?  Having little spare time to even do such things due to work obligations is problem enough.  There is also a problem of competition in this realm.  Will more satisfaction be received by spending their spare time on entertainment and other such competing time-consuming activities, or will more satisfaction be received by edifying one’s self on matters of policy?  I would venture to say that, given my own perspective on things (which I don’t think is particularly controversial), the non-edificatory hobbies tend to win the competitive battle.  Again, exceptions clearly exist and so long as the general theory is used only in a general, heuristic sense, then those exceptions can be duly accounted for.  I maintain that rational ignorance can only ever feed into the already problematic political feature that is regulatory capture.

While this next paragraph might look a bit like a tangent (it probably is if I have to preface it with another paragraph), this is my brief attempt at proposing anarchism as a possible alternative.  I mean, if this problem is endemic to all forms of governments, which public choice theory does appear to entail, then that’s pretty much all you’re left with:

Anarchism has a long and sordid history.  At present, it is a provocative position that is popularly dismissed as naïve and adolescent, while also seen as dangerous at the same time.   I suppose that anarchism could entail those things, but that all depends on the particular flavor of “anarchism” in question, and there are plenty of flavors.  There are probably more flavors of anarchism than there are flavors in a Baskin Robbins, and these flavors really do matter.  Within the anarchist community, most that ascribe to any given school think that their theory is the only conclusion that “true anarchism” (whatever that means) can ever entail.  Any other school is merely an anarchist imposter, but I digress.  The point to this commentary is that there is serious dispute within anarchist circles as to what the proposition actually means/entails.  My own position is that any form of anarchism ought and must eschew violence altogether.  There may be room for defensive violence, at the very least in the defense of others if not one’s own person, but the key is that violence is always to be avoided.  It can only be tolerated as a last resort in a scenario where it is proportional at most.  I just wanted to note my position here, not defend it, so I’m not going to delve into the ethics right here.

Before closing, I would like to address another associated issue for a moment.  It is an issue that I think attentively stewards the naming of things, as opposed to their unnaming, especially with respect to government.  This issue is that of government as religion.  Of course, what it is that I mean by religion, exactly, must first be fleshed out.  Religion, as I use it, is the manner in which we believe that our fundamental ideologies apply to the world.  Under such a sense, religion can be both non-secular and secular; such a distinction is lost on it.  Additionally, religion is rooted in faith, which also merits a quick classification.  Faith, as I use it, is utterly arational.  As such, it is immune to rational argumentation.  This is not to say that one cannot be moved toward faith through rational inquiry but rather that, even if that is the case, faith is something new altogether.  I can think that x is correct for one or more good reasons, but that’s significantly different than the claim that I know x to be true.  When we leap from a proper justification for thinking that something seems to be true to an unwavering position that it is and can only ever be a true fact of the world, then that is indeed a leap of faith.  The leap is from rationality to arationality.  I would like to note that while I do think that faith has its place, I also think it to be inescapable, but this conversation is moving beyond the scope of this essay.  I’ll probably write an article on this alone in the future.

The reason I brought up the idea of government as religion at all was to try and make this point: when we transfer a proposition from a matter of contention and probability to one of essentiality and necessity (to something that we believe religiously), we also shield that proposition from scrutiny.  This can lead to cognitive dissonance and other such problems for discourse and thought.  We might also be completely unaware of the leap ever occurring.  Part of its inescapability is that it is something that we do naturally, I think, to protect the very foundations of our ideologies.  If we were able to completely change the core of our beliefs on mere whims, then we would all most likely go insane.  Its necessity and inescapability notwithstanding, I do believe that, first, it is important to repeatedly reflect on our beliefs and try to earnestly determine whether we hold them as matters of faith or rationality, and then, secondly, earnestly determine whether they ought to be or not.

I argue that government is not merely something that is just as susceptible to corruptibility as we are ourselves.  I argue that government is both a beacon and a haven for corruptibility.  As Frank Herbert said in Dune (which I haven’t read), “All governments suffer a recurring problem: power attracts pathological personalities.  It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.”  Public choice theory can be summed up rather concisely: those who have the most to gain will be the ones trying the hardest.  Yes, this seems to be a problem with human nature more generally, but concentrating it does not seem to be helping.  If we have such a hard time tackling the problem on an individual level, then what makes us think that we’re prepared to tackle it on a macro level?