The basic thesis here is that human nature, like fire, is powerful, unchanging, and insatiably prone to destruction.  That means some things about the people who make up a democratic society, or any society for that matter. 

One thing it means is that no one is above this basic problem.  We do not have any gods among us who do not have this same human nature.  Except Senator Obama, of course.  (Kidding!)  Neither the people we elect, nor the people who are employed by the government, are anything but human.  Seems obvious, but it is important to keep in mind to remind us that government cannot solve any problems that the people in general cannot solve themselves.  We cannot elect our salvation.

This is one of the reasons why people who believe in the ancient view of human nature also tend to believe that it is not a solution to most problems to simply create a government program to solve it.  Quite the contrary, in fact, because a government program will employ people who are not directly affected by the problem, who carry all that human nature baggage, and who then will attempt to create a uniform manner of dealing with the issue so they can keep track of it.  Government programs can be beneficial, but normally only for large, uniform, easily tracked problems.  For instance, erecting a dam across a giant river is a great government project.  Or sending lots of armed men into someone else’s country.  Printing money.  Things like that.

  Another thing it means is that the people in government are going to want to use that apparatus to enrich themselves, gain status, and otherwise compete for power and glory.  That is why the Founders of the United States created a system of checks and balances, keeping the making of laws out of the hands of the branch that enforces the laws, and both powers out of the hands of the branch that decides the legal cases under those laws.  It is why Congress gets the money and the President gets the guns.  This is not out of any sense of aesthetics or because they wanted to balance the national chi, but because the Founders had the same view of human nature I mentioned previously.  By the way, this is also why the Second Amendment exists, namely, as a final check on the three branches of government. 

There is no political or organizational solution to the problem of human nature.  There will never be “a better human being.”  Our government was designed to check power with power and grasping with grasping, with a realistic view of human nature that understood that the best government could do was to offer a stable and free environment for people to live in with limits where needed to keep the peace.  Our government was not designed to change us or to get us to some promised land where all will be well, and we spend our days petting puppies under the rainbows. 

Even if we did get there, somebody wouldn’t be happy with the number of puppies they got and go after yours. 

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