George Orwell’s Insight

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“Everywhere the world movement seems to be in the direction of centralised economies which can be made to ‘work’ in an economic sense but which are not democratically organised and which tend to establish a caste system. With this go the horrors of emotional nationalism and a tendency to disbelieve in the existence of objective truth because all the facts have to fit in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuhrer. Already history has in a sense ceased to exist, ie. there is no such thing as a history of our own times which could be universally accepted, and the exact sciences are endangered as soon as military necessity ceases to keep people up to the mark. Hitler can say that the Jews started the war, and if he survives that will become official history. He can’t say that two and two are five, because for the purposes of, say, ballistics they have to make four. But if the sort of world that I am afraid of arrives, a world of two or three great superstates which are unable to conquer one another, two and two could become five if the fuhrer wished it. That, so far as I can see, is the direction in which we are actually moving, though, of course, the process is reversible.”

Orwell is pointing out a problem with government power and centralization that is still relatively unrecognized: political leaders have the power to create realities by their words, statements, pronouncements, orders, laws and speeches. When Obama keeps repeating that Russia has invaded Ukraine and this is a moment of testing for Europe and the U.S., he creates a reality. Objective truth is obscured and can be made to disappear by powerful leaders of states who lead. There are several reasons for this. Political leaders dominate the airwaves; they get free time whenever they want it in order to make news. It is very costly for others to rebut them and show that what they are saying is false, because the leaders control information. Serious rebuttal by an enterprise of major media causes the government to marginalize that enterprise and undermine it. These leaders have influence over the masses who respond to appeals that the leaders make. In short, the mere fact that political leaders lead is a big negative of any government that is centralized, as most are. Since the leaders create reality, they can overcome the limitations placed on them by methods of limited government. They overcome and exploit the holes in any legal document such as a constitution, and all documents have such holes.

The demand for political leadership and government arises with the expectation that it can be controlled and that it will deliver some social goods. This is a vain hope, as no method of control has ever been found to control monopoly power in the hands of leaders and government. As soon as leaders lead, they create new realities that augment their powers and achieve their own aims. The people may want 2 + 2 to equal 4, but sooner or later they will be told that 2 + 2 = 5, and they will believe it because they accept the authority of the government and competing voices are drowned out, destroyed by government or marginalized.

7:35 am on September 4, 2014