View RSS Feed

Memories of the 28th Century

The Best Form of Government

Rate this Entry
Reasonable people tend to agree with Thoreau that the government that governs least governs best, but there are practical reasons for having some government. What would be the best way to organize that little bit of government that we would need? Opinions would vary, but there are certain characteristics that would be desirable and other characteristics that would be undesirable. If we look at those characteristics, then an answer should be that form that best first the desires.

Flexibility would be necessary. The government would have to be able to take command of all sorts of activities from construction to regulation of business to recording information to whatever. This could fit any form, because it is a matter of hiring specialists when necessary.

Fast acting, the government should be able to react within hours to any situation that might arise. Democracy and republican governments fail on this, because everyone must have an opportunity to say something, but autocrats need not listen to anything except their consciences, when necessary. Governments by committee can also react quickly, but they might have to meet and consider the decision anyway.

Efficiency, the government should require as little in the way of resources as possible in order to get something done. This means not having many people who require payments, so oligarchies, democracies, and republics are not desirable, because there are so many people involved. This can also be a problem with some monarchies, because the royal family can require care and feeding while providing nothing. Autocrats operating by themselves do not have great numbers of retainers, representative, etc. who would require care and feeding.

But there are related questions. What is the desired role of government? There are people who think that they should impose their opinions on everyone; these people are fascists, and in the U.S.A. they usually belong to one of the major parties (either one, because they are so similar). Others believe that government should do what a God or Goddess says; these are theocrats, and they usually operated in countries where one religion dominates. And there are others who believe that government should be a framework of laws and a legal system that enables people to work within it and resolve disputes when there are disputes; these people are pragmatic; although pragmatism is not usually considered a political philosophy. Even among those who prefer to minimize government, public works, such as highways are considered to be responsibilities of government, because they are too large for individuals to take care of themselves. But government do no exist to organize the lives of individuals, except in so far as they might affect others. And government does not exist to make people conform to the approved style of living. The government that governs least governs best, because it is least costly in time and money and most capable of making decisions quickly. It has been believed for thousands of years that benevolent despotism is the best form of government, because it can fill the needs of the greatest numbers of people more efficiently than other forms.

But there are places where individual rights and public rights can conflict. One such place that has been an issue for years is the matter of vaccination against certain diseases. There is a middle ground in the vaccination war, but I donít think that either side wants to go there, because they would be bending their principles. But part of the problem is that the principles are partly mistaken. The public health people seem to think that any minor disease for which there is a vaccine should be eliminated. (I disagree with that, and the easiest counter argument is that Influenza is usually a minor disease, and it mutates so often that the vaccine mixed up in any year prevents it only about a third of the time, and the immunity provided is only good for about a year. But people gain lifelong immunity to a given strain of the virus when they make it through a case of what is usually a bad cold, and cases of influenza become milder as one ages, because one has gained immunity to a wider sampling of the viruses, and the immune system is more effective at killing off the virus. By not getting the vaccine I am gaining progressively more immunity to influenza. The only downside is that I occasionally might get a case of a newer strain for which I have little immunity, and I might spread it to others, but it is also possible that I had a related strain a few decades ago and gained partial or complete immunity. The downside for people who get the vaccine is much larger; they are less likely to have gained immunity years ago to a related, new strain freshly appearing, and they are more likely to have a severe case or to die from it.

The aside about vaccination went on too long. I donít believe that it is the business of government to keep everyone healthy, and letting some people go would be a good idea. But there should be a good legal system in which it is worthwhile for sickly people to get medical insurance, if they wish. The fascists require that everyone have medical insurance and take all possible vaccinations. The Classical liberals want everyone to do what they want and no more. Those of us who would prefer a philosopher king would rather that everyone learn enough about each issue to determine what course would be best for them and that they act upon such.

In the real world we see a variety of forms of government, but they are based on a very few forms. On one side we have parliamentary and republican forms, and there are autocracies, some of which are traditional royalty, while others have seized control. It is easier to overthrow the ones who seized control, but the old-fashioned ones are more aesthetically pleasing. But there is question as to how the American people who react to having a monarchy again. Many Americans seem to love royalty, but it might be because they are other people's royals. We, I could find a suitably attractive wife and choose a suitable moment and declare the government overthrown and we could see from there how the people would react. Nixon started adopting some of the trapping of royalty but stopped long before anyone complained. The American people loved the Kennedys for their something, and Trump would love to have the Trump family thought of as the Kennedys were. Putting families into a special category isn't good for the country or for the people involved. It would be better have the Emperor selected from large pool of potential Emperors, but that's a detail that we can work out when necessary.

There are some good points to most forms of government, except there are no drawbacks to Benevolent (or Enlightened) Despotism. In history there have been benevolent despots, but they have all eventually died or otherwise left the ruler business, and it is not easy to find someone who would be as good. Wikipedia has a few articles on the matter. The one on Enlightened Absolutism has some of Voltaire's thoughts on the matter, and he was for enlightened kings, if there were any, and he fled to the court of Frederick the Great, who was relatively enlightened.

Keep that in mind when we see electoral foolishness in various countries around the world. Elections can be entertaining, but they are unlikely to select a philosopher king.