Groups are a mask for power seeking. Nature abhors a vacuum, and a group can know no rest until a leader vanquishes all other comers. Then groups compete with other groups, and groups align themselves in larger and larger packs, until finally nation states emerge. At every level there is a struggle for power and dominance. It becomes even harder to maintain power than it is to achieve it. The vanquished go underground to live and fight another day. I am forever reminded of the comment of Russell Baker, NY Times columnist, who wrote: “What I despise the most about all minorities is their implied assumption that if the tables were turned, they would be different.” Or as Eric Hoffer put it, “It is doubtful if the oppressed ever fight for freedom. They fight for pride and for power.—power to oppress others. The oppressed want above all to imitate their oppressors; they want to retaliate.”
The strong will prey on the weak. Government is given a monopoly on the use of force to protect us from those who would harm. Unfortunately government has always done more harm to its citizens than those others who supposedly threatened. With a monopoly on guns, government has always found irresistible the temptation to use that power to solidify their position by eliminating their competition.
The question has always been how to govern without letting the beast of power out of its cage? Democracy is not enough, because any majority can and usually will turn on the minority for all the usual reasons. Majority rule only makes sense if legal restraints are placed on the majority; that some things cannot be decided by majority rule, because some rights are inalienable and not subject to a vote. The Constitution was the founding fathers best effort to limit the ability of our government to harm us. Let’s be clear: what is a government? A group, that is all, some group of people like you and me with very bright ideas about how to make the world better for you and me, better than we can do on our own. Of this they are quite certain. So certain, in fact that they find it necessary to make their notions into laws as acts of coercion. Every road to tyranny has been built with intentions for the greater good. Every tyrant has demanded sacrifice for better tomorrows.
Today our national government passes 600-700 new laws every year to define and better refine the wonderful world they are making for us, or the better to protect us from our own foolish longings. Every citizen in this country breaks laws every day, and should the government so choose, every single one of us could spend time in what is already the world’s largest prison system. This is the price we pay for a century or more of steadily chipping away at the Constitution’s protections of individual rights. Why have we done this? Because over and over again, individual rights got in the way of something a group wanted, and each small victory for a group imposed a burden on others, who sought protection in groups of their own.
Since the State is nothing more than the conflict of groups, do you want to limit the power of those groups to interfere with your life, or would you give those groups free rein? My experience is that those who are in favor of ever-expanding power of government are the same ones who are confident of final victory for their vision, with themselves experiencing the satisfaction of imposing the vision of their group on those less enlightened. There is a word for that: tyranny. No tyrant stands alone. He has the support of groups, each of whom plays the odds as they jockey for advantage in competition with all other groups. At best, the individual is only a footnote in the annals of history.
Emotional Response to Labels
Look at this list of labels. What are your associations with each? What emotions do you experience as you look at each item? You are experiencing the power of labels, the power of branding, both positive and negative.
Drug addict Sex molester Alcoholic
Ex-convict Mentally ill Tea Party member
Prostitute Atheist Occupy Wall Street
Televangelist Lawyer Factory worker
Jew Catholic Jehovah’s Witness
Social worker Teacher Union organizer
Rich-celebrity Rich-business Rich-doctor
Liberal Conservative Socialist
Gay Straight Bi-sexual
Each label above brings a vivid emotional message to someone’s mind, and that message doesn’t have to have any basis in fact or reality. Most likely it has to do with identification with one group or another and hostility to the perceived opposite. Social media is powerful because we find strength in groups. It is a rare person who is willing and able to think alone and stand alone for any length of time.
Groups use labels to narrow the field of who we are willing to learn from. Judgment becomes pre-judgment. Pre-judgment becomes prejudice. Thinking is no longer required. We know who the enemy is. We know who to hate or fear. The door to civil discourse and scientific inquiry quietly closes. The individual is helpless. Power to the people!
The group with the control of the most resources; the group with the most access to the coercive machinery of the government; the group with access and control of propaganda, including media and state-sponsored education. Power is ephemeral. No group provides eternal safe harbor. The only enduring legacy of groups is endless struggle for power. What an irony that America became a magnet for freedom lovers from all over the world because of its Constitutional protection of individual rights, and then became an empire corrupted and mired in group warfare.