If This Be Idealism, Make the Most of It

2009-02-27

Some people think that government is great when their party in power. We call them partisans.

Other people are consistently suspicious of government no matter which party is in power. We call them libertarians.

Me, I'm starting to think that government doesn't exist. I don't know what to call that.

How can I say that government doesn't exist? Isn't the evidence all around us?

Not so fast. The existence of a military base or a courthouse no more proves the existence of a government than the existence of a church or a temple proves the existence of a god.

To my mind, all power and all divinity are individual. Governments and gods are abstractions from individual power and divinity. Those abstractions don't exist, because only individuals exist.

The authority of a particular religion's god derives from an asserted monopoly over divinity (thou shalt share in the divine only through participation in this church). The authority of a particular country's government derives from an asserted monopoly over power (thou shalt have strength only through participation in this government department or function). On this theory, the goodness or power of the people (i.e., ultimately of individuals) comes about only through the grace of the monopolists -- not from the inborn features, acquired customs, and hard work of the people.

I oppose the monopolists. I think that divinity and power, properly defined, are all and only individual, and that institutions derive their just divinity and power from the individuals who participate in those institutions.

This is a large topic. I have not defined divinity or power (which I see as much more naturalistic and voluntaristic than most religionists and politicians do). So over time I'll try to explore these thoughts in more depth.

However, I want to make it clear that I am not anti-government or anti-religion per se. I think that militant atheists are misguided in their attempts to proselytize people away from religion, and I think that militant anarchists are misguided in their attempts to proselytize people away from government. When it comes to both gods and governments, I am a non-believer (we have a term for this when it comes to religion, but not when it comes to politics -- I suppose the closest we have is to say that someone is apolitical). I simply don't believe in gods or governments. Instead, I think that individuals have the capacity to think, choose, act, and feel in ways that are naturalistically sacred (not delaying the sacred until some afterlife) and ways that reflect a personal, positive power to create great value in the world (not holding power over others).

Perhaps the word for this approach to life is: idealist.


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