by Jessica Pacholski
The earliest civilizations on Earth were ruled by God-Kings – men singled out by the priest class as ordained, by whatever deity, to rule over the citizens. Their word was law, and immutable law at that; religious despotism was the hallmark of the first city states and with this the first record of organized warfare and class. Granted, some rulers were worse than others, but the law was no more than the whim of men claiming the exclusive power of God for their own ends. The steles unearthed from the dawn of civilized society attest to the centralized power of these God Kings. As civilization progressed the modes of government have transformed, however the human species seems to still retain a remnant of the superstition that government is sacred in some way. I see this as the biggest obstacle we have to realizing the goal of human freedom and the rule of law.
Most of human history is riddled with misery, poverty and slavery, save a few bright episodes that brought us great benefits, but we’re ultimately swallowed up by the darkness again. What was it that changed to create those bright spots? There is a simple answer: freedom. Free societies always produce more than centrally controlled ones do. The creative output increases because human energy is allowed to flow and technology is generated from the experimentation that comes from being unfettered. Without exception this is the cycle of mankind. Free people produce great wealth, not just in commodity but intellectual wealth as well, then the pendulum swings, there is a backlash against the rising tide of equality that freedom encourages. Yes, freedom brings equality. As the wealth is no longer centralized in an absolute government the people need those governments less. The result is a clampdown on the people through regulation and expansion of power by force. Of course, the people help government achieve its ends, usually demagogues using resentment to foster hatred among the masses in order to divide them. It is then simple to convince them that if they give up their freedom they will be provided for and their lives made better. In ancient Greece they saw that democracy failed because the people would vote away the wealth and rights of their fellow citizens creating despotism. This is called voting for “bread and circuses”. Obviously the Greek Empire imploded, as did the Roman, the Byzantine, and the Ottoman. I don’t have the time, nor the inclination, to list every failed empire of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Asia Minor.
Europe underwent a transformation beginning in the seventeenth and throughout the eighteenth century. The Enlightenment gave birth to a zeitgeist which we still benefit from, the idea of individual worth. From politics to economics to the sciences, the people benefited from the idea that they were not the sole property of the elite, the nobility, the Church, and rich merchants, but were entitled to the same rights that the elite had always enjoyed. The Middle Class was the result of the revolution, former peasants who now enjoyed a rise in their living standard because of the democratization of capital that came with the idea of individual rights. All rights are based on the concept of property, previously the lower classes were considered the property of the elite, now they could enjoy the ownership of property themselves. Part of this property was the right to their own lives, self ownership. No longer the serfs, they gave birth to the Industrial Revolution. That era did amazing things for all of us. It almost doubled our lifespans, gave rise to new inventions that made products more affordable, created leisure based businesses, unheard of in any other time in history, increased food production, raised the rate of literacy, and decreased the percentage of those who lived in poverty.
The classic ideas of liberal society are dying, why? Because people want to return to the God King. The idea that “society” or the “greater good” trumps individual rights is a return to the ancient order. It’s a philosophy based on the idea that one has no rights, the tribe trumps the individual. This is a provisional rights system, if you have no personal rights you have no freedom, everything becomes a matter conformity to the will of the group without room for dissent. Of course, you need to use coercion to enforce this ideology, and for such coercion you need a powerful central government to take the helm of the ship of society. In such societies an oligarchy is created, an elite bureaucratic group with a charismatic front man that serves the function of the God King. Historically, this is how men like Mussolini and Stalin rise to, and stay in, power. Psychologically they fill the role of benevolent tyrant, a patriarchal leader who will preside over the people and lift them to glory. While they claim their intent is to create an Utopian state, they usually bring only destruction to their people.
Yet, there is still a call for such a system, because most people want to believe that it will somehow work this time, if it’s done right. There is not one shred of evidence to back this belief. It’s quite to the contrary, it has proven false time and time again, yet the superstition in humanity still remains that our leaders are the emissaries of God, or even worse a substitution for gods themselves. Government, especially Democracy, has taken on the air of religion in it’s supporters’ zealousness and blind belief. To question the wisdom of our rulers is to show yourself as being selfish and paranoid, yet that is only when that particular persons party is in power, it’s still patriotic to question government authority when their party is voted out.
I would like to question the system itself, is it what it claims to be? Why do we still turn a blind eye no matter how many abuses of power are exposed? I, for one, am non-partisan. It’s the system itself that is broken because much like the ancient Greeks too many people base their vote on emotion, giving power to those who are the most charismatic and promise them all the “bread and circuses” that the market will bear. They vote for their ideological God King and are all too willing to trade their freedoms for pie in the sky policies that just create more problems than they solve. If your wondering “what happened?”, look in the mirror, are you your own sovereign or are you a serf? If you still think that there is a leader who will rescue you and yours, you are the latter.