Freeman

ARTICLE

Self-Government

AUGUST 01, 1965 by ROBERT K. NEWELL

Mr. Newell operates a farm near Marcellus, Michigan, one of his "crops" being an oc­casional article.

Since the dawn of history man has vainly sought to ordain order and advance social justice through political legalism. Liberty, equal­ity, brotherhood, justice, security, freedom—and especially self-gov­ernment—have long enjoyed stat­ure in political clichés.

On the surface, democracy seems to encompass all social ideals and appears to be the epit­ome of political government. The motivating principle asserts the inherent right of all to participate in government and determine pub­lic policy. But with unquestioned power invested in popular opinion, democratic idealism deteriorates rapidly into government by organ­ized majorities.

Even the authoritarian majori­ties who imagine themselves self-governed have no real understanding of political subterfuge and simply endorse whatever their leaders are pleased to tell them. And since it is easier to subjugate and manipulate those who believe themselves free, the grand illusion of freedom and self-government is carefully preserved by the strat­egists who constantly maneuver behind the democratic stage.

Since democracy is not of itself a stable form of government, but rather a method of ordaining so­cial change, all forms of political tyranny can easily win the en­dorsement of the majority. The irresponsible elements of any so­ciety are readily persuaded to state-sponsored beggary on the as­surance their personal problems will be miraculously solved by some political nostrum a clever candidate advises them to try. To exercise control over an apparent­ly self-governed democracy is only to understand and utilize the principles of mass psychology. The demagogues who successfully ex­ploit social and economic disorders and identify themselves with the majority, ultimately attain oli­garchic power.

Democracy has always enjoyed broad acclaim as the champion of political justice. But history amply indicates that government by pop­ular opinion has spawned nothing but social and moral chaos. No matter how wisely begun, skillful­ly expedited, or enlightened the self-governed, the self-governed states have followed similar pat­terns of degeneration to mob an­archy. When laws fail, the anarchy must be brought under control by some form of dictatorial govern­ment, until counterrevolution in time completes the cycle by return­ing political process to the hands of the people. The entire gamut precludes human liberty and so­cial justice, as political instability insures social disorder and minor­ity oppression in every phase.

Self-Discipline the First Step toward Self-Government

Political societies and their vari­ous governments have come and gone while man has been advanc­ing his civilization, but the basic problems attendant to human re­lationships continue. Many, now as in the past, despairingly believe it is fundamentally more sound and morally easier to be controlled by an illusionary self-governed legal system than to master the art of governing oneself.

As free moral agents, individ­uals tend to seek justice through spiritual values, while individuals acting collectively seek favoritism through deliberate applications of political injustice. Individuals must laboriously ponder justice through conscience, while political majorities have only to embrace an ideology to have it automati­cally proclaimed morally correct regardless of the injustice it may inflict. Despotism, no matter by what name it masquerades, is quick to exploit this human in­fatuation with group motivation. Human progress depends entirely upon the intrinsic moral judg­ment of self-governed individu­als, politically controlled in the minimum degree that prevents infringement on the human rights and opportunities of others.

Constitutional legalism is both the ancient and modern political antidote for democratic oppres­sion. But no matter how eloquent­ly it defines the rights and virtues of individuals or how boldly it af­firms opposition to majority in­justice, it is still only a document of public intention. If the inten­tion of the society changes, the constitution is automatically in­validated. Reappraisals of constitutional application are continually substi­tuted for original intent when le­galism no longer reflects the true spirit of the society it governs. Constitutional legalism may ac­curately recognize the basic dif­ferences in human desires, initia­tives, and capabilities, and assure that the fruits of human effort will be equitably divided in direct proportion to contribution. It may also impartially administer jus­tice. But as soon as the legal sys­tem appears less than perfect to a majority that lacks the human en­ergies necessary to utilize its per­fections, the endless search for the golden mean of political medioc­rity resumes.

The Power of Personal Character

The best government, and the only government that will perma­nently benefit mankind, is intro­spection; for it alone can identify true social responsibilities and teach us to govern ourselves with moral restraint. Human life de­mands effective living. Effective living demands that the human spirit be allowed to seek and at­tain justification through self-chosen channels. The greatest and most far-reaching contributions to the cause of human enlighten­ment have never developed from majority opinions, but rather from inspired individuals quite often at odds with their contempo­raries. The only restraint that can ever be imposed on the democratic oppression that stifles human spirit is the power of personal character, developed through the moral growth of self-sufficient in­dividuals.

As man apprehensively surveys the future, he is inclined to believe that the world has only to turn to the self-government of democracy to bring human problems to a swift and happy conclusion. But externally applied self-governing political concepts, no matter how lofty their legal and moral intent, can never provide mankind with a hopeful future. Mankind must learn to govern from deep within the individual; and when man at last has mastered himself, respon­sible human relationships will be the first and most important by­products of his accomplishment. 

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September 2000

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