Govoholism

2008-03-02

I've been reading an interesting book about psychological change, entitled Changing for Good. The authors have found commonalities among those who change their behavior on their own (i.e., not through psychotherapy or support groups or other such means). Such "self-changers" generally follow a common path to change: they initially resist a given change (e.g., quitting smoking) but eventually begin to contemplate change; over time the positive aspects of change begin to outweigh the negative aspects of giving up their old ways so they begin active preparations for making the change; then they finally take action, after which they must actively maintain their new behavior.

So I began to wonder: could one apply the same schema to societal change? John Adams famously said that the American Revolution occurred years before 1776 in the hearts and minds of the American people. That sounds like an awful like what Prochaska et al. call the contemplation phase.

And then I began to wonder further: what are the negative behaviors that society needs to give up? For those of a libertarian persuasion, the major negative behavior could be described as govoholism: addiction to government (primarily being enamored of government power, but secondarily being hooked on government programs and handouts). And the libertarian program has always been to convince people to give up entirely their addiction to government -- a kind of political teetotalism. Unfortunately for libertarians, at present most people think that government action is almost always good, with very few downsides. It will take a long while before Americans again think that addiction to government is more negative than positive. So I think that the prospects for a libertarian future are not very bright. I'd be happy to be proven wrong, but I'm not optimistic...


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