Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paul, Powers, and Principalities

Poring over the slate of GOP candidates, I find myself compelled to admit:  I like Ron Paul.  I really do.  Perhaps that's a factor of the odd way in which right-leaning libertarians and left leaning anarchists come right back around to being essentially the same critter.   Paul is admirably consistent, and seems to be that rare politician with considerable integrity.

But though I'm theologically quasi-anarchic, and very much in favor of limiting the scope of governmental intervention in individual life, I just can't quite bring myself to consider voting for him.  Why?

Because I think weakening the state in our democratic republic would have a negative impact on individual liberty.

What is the role of the state?  A good and well-run state balances the interests of constituent members of a culture, insuring that the liberty of one does not impinge on the liberty of others.   That is the essence of justice within the realm of human societies.

The reality, though, is that as cultures become more complex than the local or the tribal, the requirement for the state to maintain balance becomes more challenging.  You are no longer balancing individual rights with other individual rights.  You're dealing with collective and transpersonal entities, whose power is considerably greater than that of individuals.

Our society, for good or for ill, has decided to treat most corporations as if they were individuals.  Those "persons" bring considerably more weight to the table than a single individual.  Their interests, driven by the amassed wealth and resources that these "immortal beings" bring to the table, are difficult to counterbalance if you are just a single human being.  My ability to influence the direction of culture is considerably smaller than that of NewsCorp, for example.  The same is true for ExxonMobil, or NorthropGrumman, or ConAgra.   If they want something, they're likely to get it.  They control both the means of production and, increasingly, the media through which we communicate.

If it is truly representing the people, government provides a counterbalance to the power that corporate entities wield in a culture.  It can break up organizations that are too potent.  It can regulate those corporation's activities...and what are regulations but laws governing the behavior of these odd semi-human leviathans?  And the behavior of corporations needs to be governed, because they could otherwise easily become the lords, barons, and dukes of a new feudalism.

Assuming they are not already.

In the absence of that counterbalance, those entities will pursue power and profit above all other things.  That's their purpose, and that's the biggest challenge facing both anarchists and libertarians.  Maintaining individual freedom and liberty in the face of those very real and active powers seems to demand both an engaged citizenry and a government that is empowered to act on the behalf of the individual.

Given the Corporate Colossi that now tromp and rumble through our world, we each need all the help we can get.