Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It’s Not the System; It’s the People Behind It

Have you ever seen the movie A Fish Called Wanda?  If you haven’t, there was a funny scene in there where Wanda tells off Otto about his apparent intellectual limitations.  Basically, Otto doesn’t like being called stupid (he’s actually a good weapons man) and states that stupid people don’t read philosophy.  Wanda retorts, citing several humorous examples, that just because you read philosophy doesn’t mean you understand it.  In other words, you can read all the books in the world but without the wisdom to understand what it is you are reading, you may as well be reading it in a foreign language that you don’t understand.

Human beings have limited intellectual capacity and usually have more reason to behave irrationally than rationally.  When you remove the consequences of losses, when you provide safety and security, people have little reason to act in their own best interests simply because their own best interests are taken care of.  While few people can recognize the situation and rise above the challenges, these are rare people indeed.  Most people are more content to barely skirt by and come to a point where they can enjoy life on their own terms, if possible.

So when I say that I don’t trust the government to act in the best interests of the people, I don’t mean the system of government we live under, but the people operating that system.  Think of government as the worst kind of corporation, the one that most Leftist Statists gripe about all the time.  If a private entity exacted money from you the way the government does, there would be Hell to pay.  If a private corporation (and by ‘private’ I mean one that gains profits independent of the government) were to travel the globe and bomb people in order to serve some kind of foreign interest, we’d all be rising up in revolt.  But still we remain passive because we believe that the government is acting in our best interests.

Think of the person you hate most in life.  Think of that person who annoys you to no end, who is completely unaware of his or her social awkwardness or has absolutely no social filter to speak of.   He or she could be mean-spirited, bigoted, or just plain stupid to a fault.  Now think of that person working as a government bureaucrat with the all important job of making your life better.  Do you honestly think that this person would fulfill the role to your benefit?

As a software developer, I’ve gained a lot of experience in designing software systems.  Most of the designs are awesome and flawless in their theoretical applications.  But once we’ve implemented them, there is always something that goes wrong.  It could be a logic error, a design flaw we missed, or just a limitation we never thought we’d reach.  Once system I worked on involved processing electronic documents as fast and as efficiently as possible.  And yet, our clients always managed to provide us with that one document that could break the system.

The point is that no matter how perfect the system appears on paper, at the the end of the day there is always the human factor to totally screw it up.  Just about every government program, even the ones that involve death and destruction, were started with the best of intentions.  The people who were elected or hired to operate these programs by and large started out with the best of ambitions.  They wanted to help people, to make things turn out for the better in this world.  They wanted to make our lives a little better than it has been.  But if you ever had a sit down with a politician who has been in the game for decades and I guarantee you’ll see either a cynical or corrupt human being devoid of that ambition with few exception.  More than likely, you’ll see both.  This is because they’ve come to realize that all their optimism doesn’t mean a damn thing when it comes to application of their ideals.

In the end, most people who live in the safety and security of government will react violently when that is threatened.  We’ve been seeing it now for the past few years due to the economic contraction that is taking place.  Between the Greeks to the Cheeseheads, government workers and beneficiaries are suddenly finding out that they may have to get real jobs for a change.  From the top to the bottom, everyone just wants to get by and screw the rest of us.

I wish I could say that there was a system that could fix this, that there was that perfect, Utopian society, a kind of city on the hill that was just over the horizon.  But there isn’t.  Whether you are anarchist, capitalist, corporatist, or Socialist, it really doesn’t matter.  Human beings are what they are and there will always the shrewd tyrant who makes his or her way through to a position of leadership.  And all the while there will be a large group of people who will gleefully implement the tyrant’s immoral acts all the while protesting that they were just doing their jobs when confronted with their crimes.

The best we can do is to eat, drink, and find enjoyment in our work whatever that may be.  This comes from the hand of God, after all (if you believe in Him that is).

1 comment:

  1. Nice analogy - and an appropriate one.

    Re A Fish Called Wanda - easily an all-time great comedy - I've repeated the same thing on my blog only with history. People "read" history but very few actually grasp it. Just contextualizing is something they seem to forget. That much became apparent to me earning my history degree in university.

    I've seen dismal and dimwitted "analogies" people make to history to prove a contemporary political point.


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