The Roots of Evil: Part 3

“Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”
Milton Friedman

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Benjamin Franklin

“War is a racket“
Major General Smedley Butler

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the (congressional)-military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.”
Thomas Jefferson

“Whereas it appeareth that however certain forms of government are better calculated than others to protect individuals in the free exercise of their natural rights, and are at the same time themselves better guarded against degeneracy, yet experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes;”
Thomas Jefferson

“Fascism is capitalism in decline.”
Vladimir Lenin

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. “
Lord Acton

As I believe that religious and political ideology enslave the mind, so I believe that their partners in crime, evil government and institutions, enslave the people.

Corporations are the most prevalent modern institutions that are creatures of government and would not exist without the legislative and legal framework that allows for their creation, and more important once created, leads to their ever growing power to limit competition, support their growth and stifle dissent. As more power is funneled to corporations through favorable legislation and wasteful purchases, increasing profits from the corporations are funneled back to governments through donations, bribes and jobs, leading to an ever escalating cycle of cronyism. “Too big to fail” becomes the watchword of the day and the facade of public interest is exposed when it is revealed that the corporations write the legislation that supposedly regulates them to their own benefit through their paid handmaidens, politicians.

Governments are the means by which those who have sized power consolidate and use that power. Regardless of the high minded statements made in constitutions, as Jefferson noted, political realities and the ambitions of self serving leaders so widen the gap between rhetoric and reality that in time the founders of the government would hardly recognize their creations (assuming that they ever had any intent to actually grant the rights that they set forth in their constitutions).

For both governments and institutions, both exist, initially at least, “to serve the people”  by providing goods and services that they otherwise cannot provide for themselves. And certainly they do so, especially when they are small and new. The challenge arises when the growth of the organization and the subsequent demands to feed and perpetuate the organization exceeds the net benefit provided. In medical terms there is a word to describe the mutation of what were once productive cells into unproductive cells that exist simply to grow without limits: cancer.

It seems that looking back over world history, the pattern is for ever increasing growth and centralization of power, to the point that the purpose of government (and non-governmental institutions) becomes the continuation of their existence. At some point this growth, with the inherent complexities of organization and communication added by this growth, stifles any useful benefit that was provided in their infancy. As they grow, they become increasing fragile and subject to failure through external shocks, as their ability to respond to unforeseen events has atrophied through neglect as their focus shifted to controlling and shaping events to their benefit. Like an old and massive oak, it is when the facade is the largest and seemingly the most virile, that the core is most likely to be rotten and subject to catastrophic failure from external shocks.

Both governments and institutions (through prices, taxes and competitive restrictions) tax the public in order to fund their growth. In the early stages these taxes are reasonable and the trades are fair. Just as cells transmute from useful to cancer cells over time, so too do institutions and governments. With the continued consolidation of power, the taxes and restrictions grow and the benefits recede. As this occurs, the symbiosis between corporate and government interests becomes more evident, with corporations and governments become the cheerleaders and enablers of the other and their programs.

I do not believe all governments and corporations are evil. It is the degree to which their increasing size, age and power is focused on their growth and survival, as opposed to their mission as expressed in their constitutions or corporate purposes, that they are or are becoming evil. I also believe that this is a process that occurs over time for those organizations that do not start with malicious intent, who however evolve to it through deliberate or incidental adoption of practices and decisions that are counter to their original charters, which through accumulation fundamentally undermine their stated purposes. The “slippery slope” of evil.

Corporations and governments are not independent entities, but are ultimately collections of people. It is these collections of people that through their actions that enable both to act in the real world, to the benefit and harm of the broader public. In looking at the growth and consolidation of power in governments and corporations, what is happening under the covers is the growth and consolidation of power by individuals who makeup these organizations, especially at the senior levels. While there may be some that recognize the lie that underlies their actions in the services they provide, as I discussed in the power of memes, the ability to recognize and act against those lies, especially when it is in conflict with someone’s immediate best interests, can be nearly impossible.

As a Stoic I remind myself that the limits to my control end with my actions. What happens after my actions are subject to fate, likewise what happens in my external environment, where those events are driven by governments and corporations. However, just because I cannot control the outcomes, does not mean that I will not try to influence them for the greater good. From helping awaken the minds of individuals, to fighting the mind controlling influence of ideologies, to opposing the power of evil governments and institutions where I am able, my success in life is not measured by my achievements, but rather in my efforts.

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