When the discussion turns to politics, my favorite question to ask people is; “what is the purpose of the State?” I have been asking this of both liberals and conservatives for many years.
Most folks are initially confused by the question and I need to clarify. By “purpose” I mean, what is it designed for, not what do you want to see happen. And “State” is meant as “a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government.” (via Google)
Interestingly, both libs and cons have a similar underlying philosophy about the State. That the State exists for the people. Liberals tend to frame this as an institution designed to help people, while conservatives tend to frame it as an institution designed to protect people. The liberal view being that the State is there to provide rational organization of community life and the conservative being that the State exists to protect the community from outside harm.
Both viewpoints place “the people” as the central purpose of the State. There are many tomes written to support this view and I leave it to the reader to do their own research. There are also some, less popular, contrary theories on the subject. I subscribe to some of the contrary theories. (and yes; I have regularly been identified as a contrarian)
Namely, that the State is designed to secure resources.
Said another way; securing resources is the primary function of the State.
This conclusion is reached through observation and research. And lest this digress into a comparison of every form of State that we know of, let me qualify to say that OUR State, the USA, has the primary function of securing resources. This can be seen through our policy and our spending. Our policies tend to revolve around property, ownership, and finance. Certainly, we have amendments and laws which serve to protect human rights. But I argue that those policies only ever come to fruition when to NOT do so would negatively affect the bottom line.
If there is no financial gain to be had, it has little chance of becoming policy.
There is research which supports this claim. Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page recently published a study entitled, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” (for an editorial summary, read this piece in the Washington Post) Spoiler Alert; Average Citizens have the least impact on policy.
Ok, ok, you get where I am coming from. Some would call this cynical. Some might call it a conspiracy theory. It is neither. Just a sober assessment of what the State really does best. And that is to secure resources through military and economic power. It’s been this way for a while. America didn’t invent it, but we sure do it well. Better than anyone before us.
So here we are, living in a system which is designed to secure resources. Folks who learn the rules of this system can end up doing very well for themselves. Folks who were born into some form of financial stability, and have racial and gender privileges, have the best chances of scoring once they learn the rules. And even folks born without privileges of race, gender, and class, at least have the opportunity to make a go of it. Providing they master the rules. (and even if they do, those less privileged are going to have more obstacles to overcome… but that is another story…)
Somehow, whenever someone is revealed to be doing something greedy or self serving, our media likes to jump down their throats’ with accusations and character assaults. And it sure is satisfying to point to the elite and wealthy of our nation, exposing how “inhumane” their decisions and actions are. Maybe it’s true. Maybe those folks are really just bottom of the barrel types of people. But wait a minute…
This looks like criticizing football players for hitting too hard. Or condemning soldiers for shooting people. Or demonizing poker players for lying. There are only so many ways to become extremely wealthy in the US. And except for perhaps winning the Lotto, they all involve making or benefiting from very morally questionable decisions.
We would not council a defensive lineman to consider making peace with the opposition’s quarterback. We would not try to convince a soldier to sing show tunes instead of defending his life while under fire. We would not admonish a poker player to always tell the truth. So why do we insist that capitalists and politicians begin making decisions for the welfare of the people? Their chosen professions demand that they look to acquiring and securing as many resources as possible.
The Liberal Cynic (a demographic that I am choosing to identify and label) has lost hope in humanity. For some reason, the LC believes in the system we have and that everything would be better if people just played fair.
The jingoism of the Liberal Cynic is devious. Deep within their collective psyche is the conviction that we have reached some pinnacle of human development through the creation of the United States. That the collection of rules and values known as the Constitution, guarantee us the ability to shape and create an utopia. And the only reason we haven’t gotten there yet, is because of these greedy small minded people who are taking advantage and not giving back.
And the cult of personality is born. It’s not electoral politics that are to blame, it is the Koch brothers. It is not the insurance industry that is to blame, it is Martin Shkreli. It isn’t the Federal Acquisition Regulations that are to blame, it is Dick Cheney.
These guys are all playing by the rules. (or at least they understand how to bend the rules in their favor) The rules which are designed to secure resources. They are not designed to ensure fair elections. They are not designed to deliver medication to people in need. They are not designed to limit Executive abuse of power. These rules are designed to make sure the wheels of capitalism and imperialism stay well greased. The rules of the game make certain that resources remain in the hands of a few at the expense of the many.
I want to reach out to Liberal Cynics everywhere and offer my support. You were not born into a cruel and heartless species. The human race is not fatally flawed to allow greed and hubris to triumph over justice. Please stop believing that people are simply messed up at their core. Because those beliefs lead to a hopelessness and despair that will suck the life from your heart. They are not true.
The rules can be changed. They are just thoughts and ideas. Somewhere, way back when, some folks were able to start this myth that kings and queens were put here to protect the common folk. And from that myth sprang a belief that the common folk could select for themselves who their guardians would be. Through this twisted history, we have become convinced that authority is a basic human need and without it, chaos would follow.
We can change this. It isn’t easy to make change and it can be slow. But we can do it. It starts at home and works outward. There are other ways of making change in your community. You need not rely upon elected officials to create change for you. It takes time. It requires organized effort. It is doable.
Liberal Cynics everywhere; forget about the villains of our time and turn to your neighbors and communities. Holding hands and sharing are much more powerful tools than our systems of oppression would have us believe. It is astounding what can be accomplished when we sit and break bread together. There is no more room for your cynicism. We need each of us if we are to make it through this dark night. We need to again believe in each other and our collective power to create change.