A False Dichotomy – Part 2

… continued from Part 1

As I think about the false dichotomy of totalitarian government vs. anarchy (no government), it gets me thinking about the economic principle of the free-market.  I wonder how this compares to anarchy, which has historically always resulted in thug tyranny.  Does a free-market environment naturally result in economic thugs taking advantage of

those struggling to figure out how to survive in the market-place?  If so, what is the correct solution?

Portrait of Louis XVI

Portrait of Louis XVI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I think about these questions, I ponder about the oppression of the poorer classes by the upper classes that led to the Chinese Revolution from Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese class system, the Bolshevik revolution from the Czars and Russian aristocracy, and the first French Revolution of 1789 from Louis XVI and the French aristocracy.  It occurs to me that each of these revolutions had reasonable motivation, even if I don’t agree with how they handled it and their outcomes.  The aristocratic abuse was inexcusable.  The poorer classes were led to believe a fallacy that it was the differences of their social status that was the cause of the abuse, rather than the lack of virtue on the part of the abusers.  The people leading the revolutions took advantage of the sense of injustice felt by the lower classes to feed the emotional support for their cause and turned it into a desire for revenge, thus resulting in a violent revolution where people, innocent of any crime, were punished for the sins of the abusers.

While there is a self-destructive problem inherent with seeking revenge, I want to address the reality of the injustice which was the motivation of each of these revolutions.  The injustice was real and it was reasonable for the lower classes to feel a sense of injustice and have a desire for revenge – not that the resulting actions of the revolutionaries were justified in my opinion, just that the feelings on the part of the poorer classes are reasonable.  This demonstrates that it is ultimately in the best interest of the holders of power and economic capital to exercise restraint in how they wield the influence and power that comes with their relative economic and political situation.

Throughout history, it is always those who abuse the power and influence they have which give motivation for revolutions.  Therefore it is important that those who only exercise power and influence to serve and respect all individuals equally, are also aware of and take action to counter the destructive or careless actions of others with power and influence.

Vouet, Simon -- Allegory of Virtue - c. 1634

So what is the solution?  The solution is both private and public virtue on the part of everyone.  When our primary concern is to bring about the most far-sighted happiness for everyone involved, including, and especially for ourselves, we will have the education to learn from history, and the courage to do what is necessary to stand up for what is right.  The more people who do this, the better society becomes.

A False Dichotomy – Part 1

Cover of "Red Scarf Girl (rpkg): A Memoir...

In an attempt to be a better mentor to my children, I have recently been reading a book some of them have read and others are reading titled, “The Red Scarf Girl” by Ji-Li Jiang.  It is a memoir of Ji-Li Jiang who was in her early teens during the beginning of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

It is interesting to see the point of view of a 13-year-old child who had been brought up to believe that Mao Tse-tung was a savior of the Chinese people from the oppressiveness of the evil upper class, and to see the conflict that went on within her mind and heart.  Even though she had been brought up to honor and revere Chairman Mao, her Grandfather had been an “evil landlord” and so she was considered to be of the “black class,” needing cultural reform.  Her father was imprisoned and abused, their family had most of their possessions confiscated, and worst of all to a 13-year-old, she was treated with contempt and disrespect by her peers at school.

There are many other things that can be learned from the book.  At the time I am writing this, I have not yet completed it, but I will shortly.  There are many things that can be learned from studying historical events like the Cultural Revolution, but this story has me thinking about the false dichotomies that we are given by people seeking to gain our political support.  Some would have us believe that we have to choose between complete government control and complete anarchy.  They paint the picture using different words to serve their personal political agenda, but it boils down to this: The reality of this false dichotomy is that the solution to societal ills is neither complete control by the institution of government, nor complete abandonment of that institution.

When the institution of government is given too much authority and not kept under check by a vigilant electorate, it turns into a totalitarian, tyrannical government, as was the case with the Cultural Revolution, in China.

When the institution of government is completely eliminated, the result is that the honorable people are not organized while the dishonorable people are.  The result is a tyrannical oppression by organized crime and thugs, like what is happening in Somalia.

Both sides of this argument are supported by honorable people who have sincere desires to help other people.  When it comes down to it, everything, if left to itself without any restraints, will tend toward chaos, destruction and misery.  The only real solution is self-government, and the elimination of self-deception, on the part of the individual.  This means that the individual takes responsibility for everything that happens to them and makes a conscious choice about how they respond.  It also means treating every human being – whether they agree with you or not, whether they make good decisions or not, or even whether they are right or not –  as human beings whose feelings, desires, and opinions are just as important as your own, or anyone else’s.  We don’t have to agree with someone or even like someone to treat them as human beings ought to be treated.

… continued here