If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. – James Madison
No scientifically-literate person would deny that human beings are animals, and no sane person would deny that we are not only imperfect, but unperfectible; it is literally impossible to remove all the flaws from any human being. No accident of birth, no social pressure, no education, no surgery, no psychoactive drug, no holy book, no set of rules or procedures, no machine and no god can remove that flawed nature; we are born flawed, develop new flaws even while trying to correct old ones, and eventually die still flawed (and often because of those flaws). The Christian myth of original sin may be based in this realization, but there is no baptism or consecration which will wash it away; we are stuck with it, and the best we can do is to recognize the truth and ask for others’ help in controlling the damage our flaws may cause.
Unfortunately, one of the most profound and dangerous of human flaws is our love for authority; the average human craves being told what to do by someone he perceives as superior to him, and the majority of exceptions to this are those who crave the power to tell others what to do. And though a wisely-organized system would recognize this by limiting both the ability of all humans to exercise power over others, and the opportunity for individuals to surrender power to self-proclaimed leaders, we do not have a wisely-organized system for the simple reason that humans on the whole are not yet wise enough to design such a system. Theoretically, democracy is supposed to do this, but humans’ love for titles, badges, costumes and Great Men has undermined every attempt since Classical Greece; whatever system is designed to put “the people” in power will eventually allow thugs and strongmen to arise, and no matter how carefully individual rights are protected the hoi-polloi will eventually rush to give up those rights for some perceived advantage (usually “safety”). And when they do, the rights of the individualists are destroyed right along with those of the mob by the flawed and fallacious mechanism that all democracies to date have depended upon, majority rule.
Any human given power will eventually abuse that power if given the opportunity to do so. Any human. Let that sink in, because every argument for the “necessity” of government invariably ignores it. Every single official, every single cop, every single judge, every single representative. Every tax collector, inspector, legislator, minister, noble and king. All of them, to a man, will abuse his authority if given the opportunity to do so; obviously, the solution is to limit and check the power of every single government actor and every group of actors so as to remove that opportunity. But that is not what we do; in fact, the tendency is to do the opposite, increasing the power and decreasing the accountability of officials until we arrive at the situation illustrated every week in my TW3 and Links columns. Nor are we satisfied with giving this kind of power to “official” authorities; oh no. The human desire to be controlled by people who know absolutely nothing about them as individuals is unsatisfied with having the boots of elected officials, appointed officials, bureaucrats, hirelings and henchmen on their faces and bodies; they must also invite a host of ministers, gurus, celebrities, bosses, academics and other Pillars of the Community to stomp on their genitalia as well.
That last metaphor was not merely chosen for shock value; humans, as I said at the beginning, are animals, so although most do use their power for rational (if wrongful) purposes like enriching themselves or destroying their enemies, they also tend to use it for feeding their appetites:
…a minister…is facing 59 counts of first-degree sexual assault in cases against girls…as young as 13…Victor Barnard [led]…a cult-like faith community in central Minnesota…[and told girls he] chose [to rape that they were] to be “sacrificed to God”…
The writers of stories like this always pretend to be shocked, as though this were an aberration rather than the norm; for example, people point fingers at Catholic priests who molest boys as if the clergy of their religions were any different. Atheists in turn point fingers at clergy, ignoring the fact the same kinds of abuses are committed at the same rate by secular authority figures. If such incidents are rarer in some situations than others it’s merely due to lack of opportunity, not lack of desire. Do you realize how many different headings on this blog cover variations on the theme of “authorities” abusing their power to get sex in one way or another? “Above the Law” is the most obvious one, but there’s also “License To Rape”, “Droit du Seigneur” and “Follow Your Bliss”. Furthermore, “Reaction Formation” and “Buried Truth” deal with “authorities” who work to punish others for sexual kinks they hide in themselves. Spend some time perusing the stories filed under those tags, then tell me again how power-mad “authorities” are just a few isolated cases, and that it’s sane and sensible to keep giving them more power, more money and more control over every aspect of our lives.