It’s not the size of your government, but who you can kill with it…

There seems to be a general framework of the political arena that exists within the mainstream types (liberals and conservatives), which can be expressed in the following way:

Republicans stand for small government.
Democrats stand for big government.
Socialists stand for bigger government.

All sides seem to agree that these statements are accurate. Of course, each side thinks their stance on government is the right one: Republicans think small government is best, Democrats think big government is best, and they argue on that basis.

The truth is that neither party stand for bigger or small government. As the following graph shows, party affiliation doesn’t dictate budget size:

I don’t like to talk about the political games, so let that stand as it is. What I really want to discuss is the implicit premises of the framework.

First, from the liberal standpoint, we have the premise that, while government is run by the rich, a good government run “for the people” would be more beneficial than the alternatives. When run with good intentions, a government provides welfare, regulates corporations, and just generally protects us from the follies of the market and the effects of natural disasters and natural defects.

There are many problems with these beliefs. The most salient is that they are disproved by the evidence. Every single welfare measure “won” by liberals in the past century only passed because it was in the interests of the more moderate elements of the power elite, and all such measures which were against their interests did not pass (for more, see Who Rules America?, by G. William Domhoff). The welfare government only exists because it is in the interest of the power elite in every country where it exists, and cannot be dissociated from the war-mongering government, the corporate-bailing government, and the debt-accumulating government.

No doubt many liberals will argue with me that, while it is regrettable that welfare can only come with all the evils of government, it is better than no welfare at all. As narrow as this perspective is, I do not dispute the fact. What I dispute is the belief that if we put the right people in power, if we display the right intentions, we can have a “good government.” There is no such thing as a “good government.” Everyone will always act within the incentives of the system they are part of, and the government is an evil incentive system, whether it concerns itself with war, welfare, or neo-liberalism.

I do not dispute that the market as promoted by the right-wingers (not the freed market of the left-libertarians, which is an entirely different creature) is fundamentally flawed. However, I completely disagree with the liberals as to the cause of this flawed nature. Liberals believe the market is flawed because it creates too much economic disparity, but they have no objection to the disparities in power, the flawed conception of rights, and fundamental subjectivity inherent to the market system. Because of this, they fail to address the root cause of disparity; their sole strategy is to apply band-aids and let the market run its course. In doing so, they refuse to address the real issues and cannot possibly solve the problems of the market system, no matter what they do.

Government is authoritarian by definition, as it seeks to resolve issues by imposing a singular ruleset on everyone by force (more specifically, a country-wide ruleset and various levels of local rulesets, which generally pertain to different areas of life). All authoritarian systems develop their own incentives to accumulate power and become concerned most of all with their own survival and flourishing.

I am of course speaking metaphorically. Systems are not organisms, but they can act in a way that is similar to organisms. Like organisms, they seek to eradicate disease (internal rebellion), strengthen each other, perpetuate themselves (through the procreation of their subjects), grow and develop, and so on.

It is clear to me from studying the development of alternative systems (see for example Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi) that using political means can never accomplish anything but the interest of government and the power elite, and that any system that is built with authoritarian processes can only dissolve into political means, which include the impersonal market processes.

The state and capitalism are inseparable. The separation of the economic and the political, one of the premises of capitalism, is inherent in the system and part of the separation between producers and means of production; separation of what is construed as society and that which contributes to consolidating and perpetuating it.
Dispersing Power, by Raul Zibechi

Liberals are profoundly wrong in stating that economic disparity is the problem. Economic disparity is only a symptom of the deeper issues with right-wing market systems, which are, as I pointed out, the disparities in power, the flawed conception of rights, and fundamental subjectivity that are inherent to this ideology.

Conservatives, on the other hand, profess a belief in less government because, they claim, government intrudes in our personal lives and distorts the market mechanism, which can do no wrong. They believe that liberals want a bigger government and that this inevitably leads to socialism, which is unequivocally evil.

Of course, the intrusion objection is absolutely spurious. There is nothing conservatives love more than using the State to intrude in everyone’s personal lives, using the excuse of new made-up crimes (in addition to the old made-up crimes) in order to do so.

The distortion objection is somewhat more serious, but still spurious, given the conservatives’ strong support of the military-industrial, of corporate power against smaller agents in markets, and of laws which ban or distort entire markets (most of these points, the liberals share as well, but at least they don’t do so under the pretense of protecting the market).

Conservatives rightly see themselves as the bitter opponents of egalitarianism; I say rightly because that is what they are. They are our bitter enemies and probably would rather kill us than live in a free country. But they fall to a fallacy when they say that egalitarianism must come about through bigger government. Government is authoritarian and elitist by its very nature, and cannot bring about egalitarianism.

To be fair, this confuses even some Anarchists, who believe that the welfare state is somehow egalitarian because of a part of what it does. Likewise, people can come to believe that, say, the Catholic Church is a force for good because of the charity works it subsidizes. But this does not change the Catholic Church’s work in fighting contraception and abortion, in keeping the masses content with their fate, its past hereticides, repression of science, accumulation of worldly power and wealth, its alliance with the Nazis, and so on.

To say that egalitarianism must be achieved through authoritarian methods is a contradiction. Egalitarianism can only be achieved by egalitarian systems: as I’ve always said, the means is the end. Having one class of people controlling all the resources in order to redistribute them equally can only lead to one class of people using their power of redistribution to preserve their class privileges, as the Soviet Union has demonstrated. Again, the best of intentions, or the worse intentions, cannot change this outcome.

It may be pragmatically useful to manipulate the government to achieve some good end, if one has the power to do so, but it can never be a solution. So far, the proof is in the pudding, insofar as any non-dictatorial form of socialism has been accomplished, not by following political means, but by fighting against them, and that subjecting ourselves to political means makes socialism impossible.

One thought on “It’s not the size of your government, but who you can kill with it…

  1. Sabio Lantz August 30, 2012 at 03:40

    Good writing.
    I am not sure “Spending” is a good measure of “Size of Government”. Spending can be temporary (war, disaster …) But it is a valuable surrogate. I am Libertarian-leaning too and agree with what I understand to be your central points: We must devise ways to undo authoritarianism outside of the government. Also, we must devise ways to spread sharing, caring community outside of government too. Tough order, but the government solution has proven to be worse.

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