Politics is soul-sucking business.
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies,” Groucho Marx famously quipped. Mr. Marx might’ve been onto something there (which is a sentence I never thought I’d write).
During my daily perusal of articles, I ran across a post at Libertarianism.org titled “Politics is Destroying Your Soul.”
“But politics doesn’t just make the world around us worse,” it reads. “It makes us worse, as well.”
“Such a system encourages us to deal with each other in ways beneath the standards of behavior we ought to reach for,” the author adds. “It encourages us to see each other not as friends and companions and fellow seekers of the good life, but as enemies and rivals and obstacles in the way of finding happiness.”
I don’t share the author’s frustrations with government en masse, or the view that the natural end of all political activity is aggression against my fellow citizens. At some point, we’re going to have to decide where to put the stop signs, after all.
But a constant diet of politics is definitely soul-sucking, and it certainly would be nice to have less of it in general. The problem is that this soul-suckery seems ever present to many. That is due, in large part, to government’s constant presence in our lives.
Politics, to offer a working definition for this rant, is the deliberation process over how we spend common resources.
Ergo, when government is into everything, everything becomes political.
Just imagine if we could live in a republic where everything — from the cost of an avocado to where we go to the bathroom — wasn’t bundled up in debates over how we wish faraway bureaucrats and politicians should handle it.
The problem with Big Government is that, when you have a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail. Likewise, the answer to all issues of life in an over-governed society becomes one for public policy and, eventually, national debate to settle it out.
Pretty soon, the engines that make up our daily lives — the ones that ought to be filled by family and community institutions — become the purview of the state. As R.R. Reno notes in his must-read “Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society,” after a time, the places people interact become government institutions. As the reach of the state increases, community and church-run schools make way for the franchises of the federal Department of Education, charitable organizations are crowded out or usurped by welfare offices.
Such a system leaves the human soul malnourished and in a state of constant political squabble.
A recent column at The Guardian makes the convincing case that “activism sells,” so there’s no reason to expect this will end soon.
And the whole thing then from morning to night, starts becoming rather tiresome unless you can successfully unplug from the political – which is nothing short of Herculean in today’s world.
Perhaps, then, one of the best arguments for less government — from the Washington, D.C., swamp to the local school board — is that we’re not just tired of seeing bad decisions from the natural failures of technocracy and central planning, but that having nearly every aspect of our lives subject to whatever the next debate may be is detrimental to quality of life.
Don’t we aspire for something more? If there were less government, we’d have far less to argue about and far more to enjoy.
But, again, this is no anarchist treatise. Man, after all, is a “political animal.” So long as we remain fallen, we will have public needs that are most prudently answered through governing. But wouldn’t it be nice if there were fewer reasons to do so?