Monday, February 22, 2010

"Guvmint" and the Bogeyman

A quick thought:

As I've noted before, the big problem for voters these days is manipulation by metonymy - that is substituting a term for that which it is closely associated. For example, "Bush invaded Iraq" or "The White House said .."

The biggest metonymic bogey-man is "the government." That is an abstraction. People can't or shouldn't complain about or be mad at or blame "the government." They can criticize a law or a congressman or a president or even a ruling and action by an agency. "The guvmint" can't and doesn't do anything. People do.

But, as I've noted with the budget initiatives in Colorado, interest groups have manipulated voters into enigmatic criticism of "the government." That is integral to the problems we have in American society. Voters in Colorado vote to restrict taxes and spending based on some "ambiguous" ideal that "government is too big" and government spends too much" when the voters are unaware of congressman granting the very expectations of their constituents.

"Government" didn't do it. Voters and their elected representatives did. Don't criticize "too much spending" - pick a specific expenditure. Don't criticize the "government" - pick a specific agency or act or bill or congressman.

Just saying.

11 comments:

Paul Swendson said...

Often, the people who criticize the government and want less of it are inconsistent. The are only complaining about certain parts of the government. Conservatives who complain about government often want a big military, plenty of cops on the street, funding for intelligence agencies, and enough jails to put in all the people that they want to lock up. What they generally object to are social programs and business regulations.

steven said...

People who represent the government don't live under the same rules that you and I do, Michael. That's the problem. For example, I am not allowed to steal from you or force you to buy things you don't want (as it should be). But someone who represents the government is allowed to do these things, and if any of us resist we will be subjected to violence. From what I have seen on this site, you approve of this kind of system. Not me. Under voluntarism, at least violent criminals are not granted the cloak of legitimacy, as they are under statism.

mazenko said...

Two words, Steven - "representative democracy." Here are two more - "democratic republic." I'm not sure what's going on where you live, but here in Colorado I'm quite free, and "the man" isn't always "trying to keep me down."

steven said...

Democracy - three wolves and a sheep deciding what's for dinner.

mazenko said...

Precisely, Steven. That's why "governments are instituted among men" - to protect the rights of the sheep. As Churchill, noted "democracy is the worst form of government (except for all the others), and it is the democratic forces that have led to such budgetary nightmares for states like California. That's why we go with elected representatives who are responsible to a regular review.

Sadly, too many people have naively identified the "guvmint bogey-man" as the wolf, and the people as the sheep. Recent trends have revealed the oligarchic nature of society to be much more wolf-like.

steven said...

From Lysander Spooner:

"The ostensible supporters of the Constitution, like the ostensible supporters of most other governments, are made up of three classes, vis.: 1. Knaves, a numerous and active class, who see in the government an instrument which they can use for their own aggrandizement or wealth. 2. Dupes - a large class, no doubt - each of whom, because he is allowed one voice out of millions in deciding what he may do with his own person and his own property, and because he is permitted to have the same voice in robbing, enslaving, and murdering others, that others have in robbing, enslaving, and murdering himself, is stupid enough to imagine that he is a "free man," a "sovereign"; that this is "a free government"; "a government of equal rights," "the best government on earth," and such like absurdities. 3. A class who have some appreciation of the evils of government, but either do not see how to get rid of them, or do not choose to so far sacrifice their private interests as to give themselves seriously and earnestly to the work of making a change."

What a perfectly true statement.

mazenko said...

Or, what a perfectly ridiculous statement.

To simply imply that government, by its very nature, is in some ways evil, is a myopic and naive and ideological position that makes no real-world practical judgments.

steven said...

The shoe fits, Michael. It fits perfectly.

steven said...

One last comment, Michael, and then I'll leave you alone for the time being.

What more could the wolves ask for than an instrument which they could use to control the sheep and to keep the sheep from being able to fully protect themselves from the wolves?

That instrument is government.

mazenko said...

The government protects the sheep from being eaten by the lawless and the oligarchic wolves.

Paul Swendson said...

In a democracy, a government is (at least somewhat) a reflection of the people. They are bought out by special interests because individuals join special interest groups. Politicians make vague promises because they fear being rejected by voters who could be personally impacted by more specific proposals.