What We Need is Limited Politics
to help limit government
We racist-sexist-homophobes say we believe in “limited government.” But what do we mean? Good question. La Wik says:
In political philosophy, limited government is the concept of a government limited in power. It is a key concept in the history of liberalism.
Very nice, but supposing the Nazis or the Commies rear their ugly head. Or, to get real topical for this week, HAMAS decides to crash across the border into Israel and kill and take a few hostages?
Why then, of course, it’s take the war to the enemy, and to heck with limited government. And it’s notable that in Israel this week all the kids in the reserves that said last week they would not fight, because the Israeli Supreme Court, have all changed their minds.
So I say that talking about “limited government” is putting the cart before the horse. What we need is “limited politics.”
Now, we are all familiar with the late, great Andrew Breitbart and his notion that politics is downstream from culture.
Actually, on reflection, I say that culture and politics are in completely different silos. Culture is about how we all get along, how we agree to live together and how we resolve differences. Politics is all about fighting the enemy.
But here is what I say on the politics and government front.
I say that government is downstream from politics.
This is not that hard. The political, we know from Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, is the distinction between friend and enemy.
More to the point, as Curtis Yarvin says, there is no politics without an enemy.
Therefore, government is the means by which we fight the enemy.
The corollary is that if we don’t have an enemy we don’t need any government.
Let’s get clear about this. If we have a difference with a friend, then we get together and talk it over. Or, as lefty Jürgen Habermas wrote, people that live in the shared lifeworld with other humans communicate with each other and develop moral agreement.
It is when humans cannot get together , when they don’t live in the same lifeworld, when they can’t develop moral agreement, that’s when they realize that they are enemies. And that’s when they need government: to protect us from their enemies.
As philosopher Mao Zedong said: Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?
The point is that once you have set up a government then its leaders, its representatives, its bureaucrats, its activists, its supporters all set about fighting enemies and gifting their friends.
And more than that: they instinctively know that their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor depend on the continuance of enemies.
Enemies: they can be global and existential, like climate change. Or they can be trivial and small-minded, like the necessity of regulating the details of automobile safety. Worse, the functionaries of any government, particularly the police and intelligence functionaries, are only too glad to spy on and interfere with the political enemies of the rulers.
Friends: Back at the dawn of the modern administrative state, our betters in the Progressive movement were devoted to the necessity of replacing the “spoils system” with a system based, at least in part, on merit. Notice that, in 2023, our progressive rulers have backed off on the merit system and are replacing it with the “equity” system, where the race or sex or gender identity of a candidate for a job is more important than merit, provided that the candidate is a representative of a traditionally marginalized group. In other words, a spoils system.
Perhaps you have read the philosophy of 1930s Peruvian President Óscar Benavides:
For my friends, everything; for my enemies, the law.
All I am saying is that, in politics, this sentiment is the ruling sentiment, and thus we should limit politics. And we it by severely limiting the rules for declaring enemies.
Now, I am at present reading The Two Sources of Morality and Religion by French philosopher Henri Bergson. He examines the notion of moral obligation, the fact that we humans do all sorts of pro-social things, often without even thinking about it, and short of the fear of force. Some of the pro-social things we have just sucked up with our mother’s milk; others we have been taught as children or in the society of juveniles; others we learn in formal moral instruction from teachers and ministers. Bergson examines the whole range of moral obligation, from the pro-social behavior of worker ants, that we assume is entirely an unconscious “social instinct,” to the conscious strictures of formal religion. As humans, especially modern humans, we are consciously social, conscious of actual social and moral rules that we follow, short of force, but we also follow a whole syllabus of informal rules — in the family, in the store, on the road, at public events — usually without thinking about our behavior. So Bergson proposes that there is a whole range of moral obligation, from ant-like instincts to everyday social habits of humans to conscious moral decisions where we ponder the moral judgement of society. Notice how the criminal law, by imprisonment or execution, places the criminal outside the social community, as an enemy.
And that’s why I say we need limited politics. Human are incredibly social animals, that possess a whole range of social behaviors and sentiments. How come we need big government and its force and its eternal hunt for enemies? Isn’t there a better way, by encouraging and rewarding social behavior?
Notice that our liberal friends muddy the waters by erasing the border and welcoming millions of foreigners in as “victims,” and by erasing the distinction between the law-abiding and the criminal by their attack on policing and the criminal justice system, because criminals are victims too. In other words, precisely in the two areas where there really are potential enemies, our liberal friends refuse to see it.
That’s why I think we need to start with the politics, carefully defining who are friends and who are enemies, and then only creating a government that deals with real, identified enemies.
Because government is downstream from politics, and politics is where we identify enemies.