There is much discussion of societal evil by contemporary world leaders especially as Pope Francis embarks on a tour of unity and advocacy, seeking solidarity with global leaders. Those who control powerful institutions sit back and lecture others about the evils of hegemony seem to be blind to the irony of their criticism. Their critique of the excesses of individuals and private actors exempts their own actions, which are often the real cause of those things they reject as immoral. For instance, the so-called “people’s pope” met with Cuban oligarchs, not Cuban dissidents, and is now meeting with federal officials, not the poor and oppressed of America.
But their hypocrisy highlights a particularly perverse form of morality- the very real, and very perverse, morality of statists. Once, it was total anathema to Western values of liberalism and lifeblood to the collectivist theories espoused by Soviet leaders. Now, as government powers burgeon, it is infiltrating classically liberal echelons.
The social contract theory recognizes, in a state of nature, men possess natural rights, but must live in constant fear as there is no overarching organ that has the authority to reign in man’s transgressions against his fellow man. This, John Locke explains in the “Second Treatise on Government,” makes men “willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates.”
The reciprocality of rights — an understanding that the individual desire to live in security ought to engender respect for the same feeling in another — is explained in “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” by Adam Smith: “Every faculty in one man is the measure by which he judges of the like faculty in another.”
These dual ideas do not abrogate the possession of individual rights in an absolute sense, merely acts as a sort of sluice-gate, ensuring that the free exercise of liberty ebbs and flows in an orderly manner which impedes no man with honest intentions.
This, however, requires total neutrality—a government that is inhuman in that it is value-judgment blind. The introduction of emotionalism into a federal body is the death knell for protection of the only true minority: the individual.
Power concentrated in the hands of a central authority, especially one that has an egalitarian duty to provide for corporeal needs—housing, health care, a secure job—cannot be emotionless. It must provide, which means it must derive resources from somewhere and prioritize need, and since it’s a public entity, this means taking from one group in order to provide for another.
Essentially, government is cognizant. It functions as an individual because it has will, to legislate towards a purpose, and the means to take action. It has become a living being.
Now, like any other sentient creature, it is bound and compelled by natural law, the first rule of which is survival and the second of which is thriving.
But, there is no redress of grievances. There is only power in the executive, legislative and judicial branches concentrated in the hands of a biased authoritarian figure whose consciousness—dreams, desires, failings—have been transferred to government’s organs. The legal process is now a sham, a personal tool. The inevitable end result: rapaciousness, death, suffering on a mass scale. Stalinism and Leninism and their evils are not perversions of some greater ideological good. They are the inevitable end result.
This is not rational self-interest. This is barbarism, a state of anarchy. But, it is moral. Property rights are the true heart of natural law, and the heart of property is the concept of “I.”
Yet, it is unconscionable that clumsy, raw ambition can justifiably run over more honest and better men whose only crime is a lack of connections or a limiting set of moral precepts. The sense of compassion described by Smith ought to make any feeling man’s stomach churn.
Indignation and sickness, such as what’s felt when accounts of Stalin’s terrors are read, are also moral. And precisely why the horrible potential of statism cannot be allowed to gain a foothold in any truly liberal society.
This means that the false compassion of ideologies like social justice, which claim to be populist yet cede self-autonomy to a broad power removed from the individual, must be reviled. Though in the short run they seem to be compassionate, in the long run they only serve tyranny.