Odious and Peculiar

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Monday, October 18, 2004
I came to the conclusion some time ago that the only answer to a bureaucracy was, to quote Dr. Hibert, "Fire. And lots of it." It's always nice to have one's opinions strengthened by agreement with well-known thinkers, and I came across the following in Hannah Arendt's On Violence:
Finally...the greater the bureacratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence. In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one can argue, to whom one can present grievances, on whom the pressures of power can be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everyone is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant.
So when I'm sitting there stewing about not being able to pump my own gas, I'm actually demonstrating the validity of this thesis. Philosophy in action!

On a slightly less flippant note, it seems to me that this argument also points out the necessity of something more than the rule of law. Jonah Goldberg has occasionally tried to shock his readers by pointing out the deficencies of demoncracy: that 51% of the people can vote to "piss on the Toastie-Oats" (quoted from memory) of the other 49%. What we really need, he concludes, is the rule of laws.

But demonstrably these laws can't be arbitrary. What we need are laws that correspond with the fundamental qualities of humanity. Law in itself is no guarantor of rights. It can be used to deprive men of those rights (historical instances are too numerous to require citation), or indeed may attempt to provide for rights which contradict other, more fundamental rights, or are themselves contradictory (recent instances are too numerous...etc.). Rule of law can just as easily lead to Kafka's Trial as to Bacon's New Atlantis (although it's a toss-up which I would like less. Yergh).

Thus, law must rest on some more fundamental principle. At the moment, God and self-interest (genetic or otherwise) are the front-runners for theoretical bases. I don't know about anyone else, but my self-interest varies widely with how much I've had to eat and whether or not the Simpsons is on.

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