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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8850/antisocial-government-disorder/

Antisocial Government Disorder

October 26, 2008 by

Government officials regularly violate the rights of the people they allegedly serve. Why? Generally speaking, there are three types of motives for these attacks: ideology, corruption and ignorance. Ideology and ignorance are something of polar opposites. The former implies a carefully thought-out (if erroneous) worldview, while the latter implies random action unrelated to any particular agenda. More commonly, ignorance is explained away by saying, “He thought he was acting in the public interest, but he was misguided.”

In the middle there’s corruption — the attacker acted for material gain, if not now then in the near future. Given the “revolving door” nature of government agencies, where this morning’s regulator is this afternoon’s lobbyist, it’s easy to assign most regulatory action this motive.

However, there’s a fourth motive that’s rarely considered in regulatory attacks: The regulators are sociopaths. They enjoy violence for its own sake and not any financial or ideological reward. It amazes me that people — including many libertarians — would rather believe their government is corrupt or ignorant than simply the product of rewarding antisocial behavior. Perhaps this is because the other motives imply a workable solution: Ideology can be doused with “pragmatism”; corrupt officials can be replaced with “honest” ones; and ignorance can be eliminated by creating more “experts”. But there’s nothing that can be done about regulators that are antisocial and violent — except to stop them and destroy the agency that enabled such behaviors in the first place.

{ 23 comments }

Jim O'Connor October 26, 2008 at 12:40 pm

I think it is more a pragmatic concession to the audience. “Ignorance” is an attack on the abilities of the individual in power. “Ideology” is an attack on the ideas of the individual in power. “Avarice” is an attack on the morals of the individual in power. The final point is an attack on the existence of the individual in power (as an individual in power).

Ideology is also an attack on the people who share the ideology. Avarice is an attack on the people who voted for the individual as also sharing in the avarice or being unable to spot it.

Since political power is the meta-ideology, calling it into question it is an attack on all sides of the audience on all levels. Seriously questioning the meta-ideology is not a jump most people are willing to consider without long and serious thought, if at all.

Bruce Koerber October 26, 2008 at 12:43 pm

Those that fall into this fourth category are the economic terrorists! These are the ego-driven interventionists that are given power by the corruption of the flawed political system to exercise their arrogance.

A short list of economic terrorists includes Alan Greenspan, Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, John Maynard Keynes, Paul Krugman . . . uh oh, the list goes on and on!

Patrick Vessey October 26, 2008 at 1:18 pm

“It amazes me that people — including many libertarians — would rather believe their government is corrupt or ignorant than simply the product of rewarding antisocial behavior.”

I think that as Jim says, it’s pragmatism — but for a different reason. Few are aware of the genuine clinical prevalence of psychopathic [sic] individuals within society, and have been ‘trained’ via novels and films to view such individuals both as rare (whereas studies suggest ~5% population) and as necessarily physically violent (e.g. Hannibal Lecter). Once you do start looking at the work of those who have studied this field, a lot drops into place. But try telling the average Joe that our elected representatives are a self-selected group of psychopaths, and see what reaction you get…

Laura Bradley October 26, 2008 at 4:03 pm

All sociopaths are not in jail: many of them are in business and in politics on all levels. There are also degrees of sociopathy. It could be argued that it takes at least a little to be successful at anything. Drawn to power and money, a disporportionate number of highly functional sociopaths are found at the top levels of our institutions, both private and public. It doesn’t take a trained clinician to figure this out.

maera October 26, 2008 at 4:32 pm

I think you can make the distinction between narcissists who are so concerned with self-aggrandizement that they are blissfully unaware of the effect their actions might have on others and sociopaths who just don’t care. Observing the current crop of leaders, I’m still trying to diagnose Joe Biden who is known to have had an anuerysm in the past and has a history of autobiographical confabulation and Bill Ayers who could be a homicidal maniac. I’ll leave McCain alone because I believe he’s a garden variety narcissist who just wants to be king, who doesn’t? Obama – messianic complex or blind ambition?

Anyway, the real question is how do you protect yourself from these people who will sacrifice your freedom and devalue all your money for their own selfish needs?

Susie October 26, 2008 at 6:24 pm

Great post and good follow-ups but let’s tighten in on the REGULATORS as Mr. Oliva seems to be suggesting here. The politicos may be easier and more fun to pick apart, as they are ever so simple and predictable. But the regulators are the ones who truly destroy us with a thousand little cuts. Our country will not be destroyed by the man who is the figurehead; it will be brought down by the petty tyrants of regulation.

Too Much Government October 26, 2008 at 7:10 pm

Ignorance ? WTF !!!

The government knows exactly what it is doing and is completely guilty of Murder-1 regarding our wealth, freedoms and well-being.

Cut that “we didn’t know” bullshit. The government completely knows what it’s doing and is 100% guilty.

Case closed !!!

C. Evans October 26, 2008 at 8:33 pm

I agree with the pragmatism argument, but I think the American public is simply unwilling to contemplate the idea that some of our elected officials and the people they appoint for these regulatory posts could be evil. As these cretins scour for votes, they talk with us, they visit us on our jobs, they even have lunch or dinner with us. Many Americans are just unwilling to believe that these people whom they have met and feel a personal connection to would use the power of the State to destroy them. I wonder if Americans even realize the true murderous capability of the State. Frankly, the agents of the State could kill any one they wanted since these same agents would be in charge of the investigation. But they are unwilling to believe that the people who would want such power are evil or sociopaths who want to destroy. This may happen in other countries, they reason, but not here.
This is absurd. Clearly an institution with a monopoly on violence will attract liars, thieves, murderers, among others who just enjoy destruction. Such is the adverse selection of the State.

Nick October 26, 2008 at 9:42 pm

I don’t know if “evil” is exactly the word I would use. I think the problem is that anyone given a great deal of power over others will inevitably become corrupted by that power. Call it a flaw of human nature.

I think our dear leaders are much more narcissistic and delusional than they are psychopathic. Careers in public service select for people who believe that they can solve the world’s problems if given enough power. So they go to DC, where they’re immediately surrounded by lobbyists and sycophants who constantly tell them how wise and compassionate they are, because the lobbyists and sycophants want something from them. And over time they become convinced that they really are saving the citizenry from themselves (i.e., all those dumb taxpayers who can’t possibly decide for themselves how to conduct their lives). And because of this they start to believe that anything they do to hold onto power is justified by what they believe they’re doing for their country and its citizens.

On second thought, I think I just gave a dictionary definition of “evil”. Forget what I said earlier.

Nick October 26, 2008 at 9:43 pm

I don’t know if “evil” is exactly the word I would use. I think the problem is that anyone given a great deal of power over others will inevitably become corrupted by that power. Call it a flaw of human nature.

I think our dear leaders are much more narcissistic and delusional than they are psychopathic. Careers in public service select for people who believe that they can solve the world’s problems if given enough power. So they go to DC, where they’re immediately surrounded by lobbyists and sycophants who constantly tell them how wise and compassionate they are, because the lobbyists and sycophants want something from them. And over time they become convinced that they really are saving the citizenry from themselves (i.e., all those dumb taxpayers who can’t possibly decide for themselves how to conduct their lives). And because of this they start to believe that anything they do to hold onto power is justified by what they believe they’re doing for their country and its citizens.

On second thought, I think I just gave a dictionary definition of “evil”. Forget what I said earlier.

jason4liberty October 26, 2008 at 10:38 pm

In “The Road to Serfdom” Hayek make the claim (which I believe valid, if you care) that socialism is a self-completing process, and that left to its own devices it will lead to the totalitarian state and the elimination of liberty as the necessary conditions for its completion. The end state of totalitarian rule by a dictator is implicit in the ideology. If one holds the exercise of power and the overthrow of liberty as evil (which I do, if you care), which I do, then socialism is by its nature evil.

Regardless of how they arrive at their evil state, whether from incorrect ideology (state is superior to individual), ignorance (lack of knowledge or understanding about the nature of freedom), or corruption (which I would hold also includes the fourth reason of the original post, but the satisfaction derived is not the monetary reward but the pleasure of inflicting misery), the person is indeed behaving evilly. People have a responsibility to understand the consequences of their actions, and the broader the scope of action the greater responsibility borne.

I am also with Hayek on the belief that if the power exists it will by its existance draw the “wrong” or evil people to exercise it. Again, it is implicit in the nature of power.

Rubén Rivero Capriles October 27, 2008 at 6:24 am

You raise an issue that is at the center of most government failures.

No one has proposed a solution for this. I invite everyone one to address this question further to see how can people in office be checked and balanced for corruption.

Rubén Rivero Capriles October 27, 2008 at 6:26 am

You raise an issue that is at the center of most government failures.

No one has proposed a solution for this. I invite everyone one to address this question further to see how can people in office be checked and balanced for corruption.

Haas October 27, 2008 at 7:34 am

AMEN

Brad October 27, 2008 at 8:50 am

I’ve long characterized political leaders of men as mild to medium grandiose schizophrenics. Such people truly believe that they are harmonizing with some higher ether and are appointed to do as they do. This fits comfortably with a mass which is mostly made up of superstitious folk who look outside the mundacity of every day life, bereft of miracles, for something remote and removed (i.e. undefinable and therefore unassailable) to give them comfort.

Of course there are differentiating varieties of function, and those who exist outside of this symbiotic relationship and hope to exist as unmolested as possible in the cross tensions of ideologies. Unfortunately I see this disappearing soon and we will be pulled in one direction. History has shown when one ideology within this “insanity/superstition multi-function” pulls well ahead, that’s when we get gulags and camps and pyramids of human skulls.

Ken Zahringer October 27, 2008 at 9:14 am

Ruben,

The core problem is not that there are evil people in the world. There always have been and always will be evil in this world; that is just a condition of human life. The core problem is that we have an institution, the State, that maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. That institution attracts evil people and gives them opportunities to act that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Thus the only reliable means of checking and balancing these individuals is to not give them the opportunities in the first place; that is, eliminate the State and replace it with a non-monopolistic form of governance.

Easier said than done, I know. I’m not holding my breath while I wait. You have to keep the goal in mind, though.

Book 'em Danno October 27, 2008 at 10:17 am

In a repressive world the innocent are forced to rely on corruptible officials- whether the system was consciously setup to make corruption ordinary business or not. Hence the phrase “There’s good corruption and bad corruption.”

Government by definition is corrupt. Government makes the rules but does not live by them. It adjudicates in its own disputes. Government commands ‘Thou shall not steal’ but then taxes, confiscates through eminent domain, and robs via cartelized central banking. Government says ‘Thou shall not kill’ but then conscripts (another term for death sentence), and then decimates innocent foreign peoples.

Through that awful mechanism called “democracy” the ability to commit atrocities is hyper-enhanced.
No individual may opt out no matter what her/his conscience says is right.

Government is opposed to the most basic rights of life, liberty and property. Any defense of government makes about as much sense as defending slavery.

Michael A. Clem October 27, 2008 at 10:42 am

It’s a matter of incentives. Give some people power over others, and even those with the best intentions will make mistakes, not to mention that they cannot overcome the Calculation problem, and that kind of power will certainly attract people without the best of intentions.
At one level, it really doesn’t matter what the intentions of government officials are, the very concept and system of government is fundamentally flawed.

Due Stradi October 28, 2008 at 9:44 am

Government by definition is corrupt. Government makes the rules but does not live by them. It adjudicates in its own disputes. Government commands ‘Thou shall not steal’ but then taxes, confiscates through eminent domain, and robs via cartelized central banking. Government says ‘Thou shall not kill’ but then conscripts (another term for death sentence), and then decimates innocent foreign peoples.

In casual conversations (and in heated ones, too!!) most people will actually concede that government is harmful–whether by ignorance or malice– yet are unwilling to do anything other than stump for government’s next big role in all our lives.

Ganja Blue October 28, 2008 at 11:17 am

The drug warriors are the most violent sociopaths of them all. They claim to want to protect children while ripping them from their parents. They claim they want to bring peace while funding violent foreign wars. They claim to uphold the American way of life, while locking people in cages. They want to build fences, arm police, raid homes, wage war. They unabashedly deny the people their right to medicate and recreate in pursuit of happiness.

maera October 28, 2008 at 10:55 pm

“They claim to want to protect children while ripping them from their parents.”

I see no conflict with libertarianism that a person either has the right to be a full-time drug addict or a full-time parent. Their children have rights too. And as individuals deserve food, clothing, shelter and a somewhat stable home environment free of indoor toxic clouds so that their future isn’t compromised by the recreational activity of their biological parents. There is certainly a private way to fund their foster care or adoption.

paul November 7, 2008 at 11:40 am

This was a great article, thanks.

What i have noticed is that the people that are, as you call it, in the ignorance motive, are often acting in their best interests as well.

The ideology motive is, in some cases the ignorance motive as well. They operate on what i call a shared ideology which ends up being a form of plausible deniability.

This same shared ideology is ofcourse passed on to the public through the media. Making them ignorant to the truth.

Skye Stewart January 27, 2009 at 10:10 pm

for more on the connection between, psychopathy and the state, try this

http://www.ponerology.com/

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