June 25, 2016

No Trust in Princes

There is a root problem that plagues any concept of government: a hopeful idealism or dogged perfectionism. If only we can get X better (or a better X) it will solve all our problems, or work perfectly. A benign and wise absolute philosopher-king at one extreme, or a total democracy at the other, both make  the false promise that a systemic solution is possible. But the common factor in all human error is the humans — there is no system so perfectly designed that fallible humans cannot render it FUBAR: this is the normal situation, AFU. Ask anyone who works at the help desk of any software company.

This is one reason I am so fond of the Anglican dictum that councils are fallible since they are a collection of fallible individuals. Democracy is no more a perfect solution than absolute monarchy. The mob and the monarch are equally fallible, and no less dangerous. It is the phantom of perfect government that haunts us, the feeling that if we just try a new system we can get it right. There ain't no philosopher's stone of government, and the admission of a felt need that something needs to be governed — i.e. controlled — reveals there is an unruliness under the surface of any and all government, and those from whom this government is confected (all, many, few, or one) are inescapably the root of the problem. To err is human, and so long as humans are in charge, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will police the police?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG