What follows are a few of the basic premises on which I base my thinking. You might or might not agree with them, but may I suggest that you make a list of your own basic premises. It will help you clarify your thinking.
- Government is inherently incompetent, and no matter what task it is assigned, it will do that task in the most expensive and inefficient way possible.
- The American government is corrupt from top to bottom.
- If you rely on the mass media to inform you about your community, state and nation, you will, with rare exceptions, be woefully ignorant of what is really going on.
- The universal franchise is a bad idea. The notion that the destiny of the nation should be put in the hands of ignoramuses, parasites, boobs, party hacks and idiots is absurd on its face.
- Public education in America is a failure and is so flawed it cannot be reformed.
- Not much has changed in the past 5,000 years of human history.
All of that might sound cynical, but it really isn’t. True conservatives have argued for years that government, even a benign one, is like a clumsy, retarded giant, and therefore you have to be careful to limit what tasks you assign it.
You can make a career out of just criticizing obvious bloopers committed by the various departments of government, because they all commit them. The Romans built roads that are still around, but states today continue to build roads that will pothole and crack within a year, sometimes sooner. Look at the federal airport-security people. They take nail trimmers away from grandmothers but allow real weapons to get through. And so on and so on.
As for the news media, since most media companies are now controlled by a handful of corporations whose sole interest is in maintaining a high profit margin, you are getting mostly fluff instead of hard news. Hard news is labor-intensive. It is cheaper to go with the fluff.
Thomas Jefferson’s theoretical belief in a free press soon foundered on the reality, and he came to despise it. He advised one young man never to read newspapers, since it was better to be ignorant than misinformed.
As for government corruption, it’s all around us. Sure, there are honest public officials, but the system itself is corrupt. It now requires so much money to run for office that the field is narrowed to bored millionaires and office-seekers willing to take as much money as they can from anywhere they can get it. That’s why Congress pays no attention to the people. It pays attention to the suppliers of campaign funds — not to mention junkets, fancy vacations and off-the-radar business deals.
As for the universal franchise, the problem with that is obvious. People who wish to vote should at least be required to pass the same test given to immigrants who want to become citizens. A lot of voters are not even sure what state they live in — or what century, for that matter. How can people who are ignorant of history, economics and basic science make an intelligent choice for a national leader? They can’t. They will go with the demagogue.
And, of course, it is public education that is mass-producing these ignoramuses. Imagine people completing 16 years of formal education and not knowing how to spell, punctuate or use their native language correctly. Imagine college graduates who know virtually nothing about their country’s history or geography.
As for the final premise, it is simply a reminder to utopians: Human beings are selfish, flawed and fallible animals. They always have been, they are now, and they always will be. Therefore, any human institution, public or private, will reflect those flaws. If you want perfection, plant a rosebush.
Note: Charley Reese is on medical leave. Until he returns, we will be running "The Best of Charley Reese."
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.