Human Nature Doesn’t Change

Steven Den Beste (I seem to be making a habit of commenting on his stuff) has a piece up entitled Truth is Stranger than Fiction about a specific form of backlash against the bureacratic red tape that is part and parcel of the EU. Read Steven’s (short) piece, if you have not, because it is not exactly excerptable.

Finished? Good.

Steven asks two specific questions that I’d like to answer:

Can Europe avoid this nightmare? Do there exist people there who recognize the peril and who still are willing to work to prevent it?

IMHO, the answer to the first question is “no.” And the reason has to do with the answer to the second question. Certainly there are people in Europe who recognize the peril and are still willing to work to prevent it. But they are far too few to affect the flood. One of the pieces Steven quotes says this:

[A]t the heart of (Kafka’s) obsessive and horrifying narratives is an unfathomable bureaucracy, one that has emerged through a combination of inertia, default, and the institution of political power, perpetuating itself by feeding upon the rights of the people it was ostensibly designed to serve.

I submit that Kafka’s vision is merely the behavior of human nature with respect to “popular government” writ to its logical extreme: The maximization of the regulatory power of government with the minimalization of individual responsibility and accountability.

The only thing that actually prevents a completely Kafka-esque bureacracy is also human nature – the desire in a few to be the ones with their hands on the reins, even if, as the song goes, the reins are chains on their hands and they’re riding upon a train.

The purpose of our (apparently aberrant) Constitutional Republic was to build a government that could not “perpetuate itself by feeding upon the rights of the people it was ostensibly designed to serve.” By all appearances, that government too has “through a combination of inertia, default, and the institution of political power” finally headed down Kafka’s path. We’re just not as advanced along it as Europe.

But there are people here who clamor for it.

It’s human nature.

UPDATE: This piece describes, I believe accurately, the human nature behind Robert Conquest’s Second Law:

Any organization not explicitly rightwing over time drifts leftward.

It’s a good companion to this one. And it’s why, though there are people “who recognize the peril and who still are willing to work to prevent it,” there are almost never enough of us to circumvent Conquest’s law until we’ve all descended back into bondage. It also explains Tytler’s cycle.

UPDATE 5/16 9:55PM: A commenter, Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye wrote:

While I do agree with you about the consistency of human nature, I can’t say that I agree with John Ray’s analysis. The Left has no special monopoly on elitism or authoritarianism/totalitarianism. Those on the Right would be just as happy to impose their ideas forcibly on others—they just have different ideas.

Part of the same human nature you’re talking about ensures it’s a pretty rare individual that doesn’t want to impose his views on others.

I responded, but it piqued something, so I hunted through my archives for a piece I wrote back when we were (only half-jokingly) promoting the Reynolds/Lucas 2008 candidacy – back when I wasn’t quite as pessimistic as I am now about government. It’s entitled History Calls – Will We Answer? (The answer is, apparently, “No” for the same reason I gave above – there aren’t enough of us.)

Anyway, it’s still a good piece, and it’s another good companion to this one, probably better than the John Ray piece linked above. In it, I quote something I found on the web long ago that answers Dave’s contention better than I did in the comments:

It stands to reason that self-righteous, inflexible, single-minded, authoritarian true believers are politically organized. Open-minded, flexible, complex, ambiguous, anti-authoritarian people would just as soon be left to mind their own fucking business. – R.U. Sirius

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