Saturday, August 29, 2009

Human Behavior and Its Relationship to Political Systems

Human beings are not created equal, but, in fact, differ according to a normal distribution – big to small, thin to fat, athletic to clumsy. Similarly, intelligence is distributed across a measurable range with the average IQ set at 100. Geniuses at the high end and idiots at the low end represent extremes compared with the large number in the middle.

Our species has endured because the average human can survive either by his own wits or an association with others he can depend on. Most of us are social animals, more comfortable in the company of others than in isolation.

When people become part of a social structure, another kind of distribution occurs – the distribution of labor. If the group is small, the distribution is narrow. In ancient times, for example, tribes or clans had a flat hierarchy – a small group of physically strong leaders and everyone else gathering food or farming. When the tribe grew into a community, a village, a town, and finally a city, the distribution was forced to expand to meet the goods and services requirements of a complex society. The people in those cities assumed a socio-economic position according to three drivers of human behavior: physical, mental, and psychological. The ability of any individual to rise in status depended on the strength of these characteristics in combination. A good soldier would need physical strength and courage (psychological strength). Mental ability would not matter unless he was the commander. A merchant would be psychologically strong and able to sell his goods without being physically strong. He might also want to be mentally strong because he has to use his brain to run a business. A philosopher may be mentally strong but weak in the other two characteristics: adept at thinking but not able to stand up to other people.

So we see that human beings in society gravitate to positions that reflect their aptitude. That’s why we have kings, blacksmiths, writers, artisans, laborers, soldiers, beggars, and criminals. Wealth and power are hereditary. The sons of the rich and powerful start out with an advantage. Some use it; some squander it. Many men rise from nothing to success through hard work and intelligence -- strong in the psychological and mental traits. Others are capped by their limitations and must do hard labor. Nothing one can change this reality of human capability.

Political systems evolved because common people wanted protection against the abuses of the rich and powerful. The spark was the realization by individuals that they deserved certain rights: rights that gave them freedom to live based on their own choices. The early political systems of Greece and Rome came into being when political power was balanced enough to support the creation of laws written to protect these rights. Democracies and Republics were born out of the incubator of social conflict after many fits and starts.

In exchange for freedom, men were willing to trade responsibility. What I mean is they realized that freedom transfers responsibility to the individual: responsibility to live by his own means, be a good citizen, and accept what comes along in life. The will to freedom carries a price. Scary but desirable. Of course, some were never able to take that step because they lacked the capacity. The world has always had beggars.

Let’s look at a couple of modern examples where human behavior has been ignored by political theorists and politicians. The price paid for ignorance is failure.

The first example is Karl Marx and his theory of communism. Marx was idealistic, angry, clever, and completely lacking an understanding of human behavior. How he could possibly think that his theory was practical, I can’t imagine. Was he only putting out a theory – a utopia for the proletariat? I don’t know. He was amazingly na├»ve to think workers would unite in a common cause because, historically, lower classes never have a major part in revolutions. Since they lack the intelligence and organization to accomplish their goals, they typically only participate in mob activity in the beginning.

Fast forward to the Russian Revolution, where the theories of Marx were supposedly put into practice and, in fact, weren’t. The soviet leadership used communist theory as veneer over the creation of an autocratic regime incorporating many of the same elements that caused the revolt against the Czars in the first place. Soviet leaders must have had to stifle their laughter while preparing speeches about the wonderful communist ideology, because they weren’t really interested in creating a culture with a single socio-economic class. Surprisingly, many simple-minded liberal intellectuals in this country did not see the difference between theory and reality either. Were they merely channeling anger against the capitalist model or was it just the fact that communism was fashionable? Where are those communist adherents now when their favorite model has failed everywhere? They never understood that the hierarchy of man in society cannot be removed.

Now fast forward again to the United States in 2009, where we see in the Obama plan something as impractical as Marx. I shouldn’t say the Obama plan because the legislative agenda is in reality the Democratic Party’s ideology. The left believes that its always good for government to take control in areas where some portion of the population is disadvantaged. This is government acting as caretaker for the nation. The problem is what we are left with at the end of this, as in the case of the current health care initiative. If the ideologues are allowed to pass this measure, the government will take a giant step toward taking over the life of every American. The problems with government control of a large component of the economy are several. In the first place, a gap exists between ideology and reality. Bills are passed too quickly without proper analysis and debate. The situation is worse when the bills are complicated. Often, legislators admit they have not read bills they voted for. This lack of care produces laws that have unintended consequences. Secondly large programs are expensive and cost more than rosy cost estimates project.

More importantly, to reiterate the point made earlier about the relationship between freedom and self responsibility – they go together. When the government takes responsibility away from people, it also takes away their freedom by subjecting them to a bureaucracy they can’t control.

Ironically, the Democrats, who espouse more Democracy (let’s let felons vote), are the ones taking steps to make us less Democratic. Once a law is passed and in the hands of the bureaucracy, it cannot be voted on and removed like an officeholder can. It takes on a life of its own. Each new entitlement accumulates governmental controls and removes freedom from every citizen.

Because of our unique founding Americans are well aware of the factors that made our country great – opportunity and liberty. We declared independence because we didn’t want the British controlling our lives. Now we have the same problem with a controlling bureaucracy.

No comments: