Nowadays we see a lot in advertising about “natural.” It’s usually accompanied by vast open fields, cool clear springs, majestic forests, and associated warm fuzzy imagery. “Natural” is by definition a good thing, we are told. But is it?
As with most things in life, the answer is not always. I don’t know about you, but my house is an artificial construct, as are most of the things in it. If I had tried to give birth to my son in a more “natural” way, the experience almost certainly would have killed me. Some of the most potent poisons known to man are 100% natural, as are both deadly germs and the creatures that carry them. In the LDS Church we have a scripture that says, “The natural man [that is, a person who makes no effort to curb his impulses] is an enemy to God.”
Nature is great, but it is only by manipulating those things found naturally in this world that people are able to even survive, let alone thrive. And government is no different; the natural balance of power amongst people looks something like this:
At first glance this might seem like a good thing — “Woo-hoo, we’re at the top!” Unfortunately, this is not the case. The choice of a triangle was a deliberate one: not only is it shown here in its natural state (i.e., resting on its base) but it’s the perfect representation of the finite nature of power. Unlike wealth, power does not grow when shared (note I said shared, a voluntary action, and not redistributed, an involuntary one), but rather the more you give to a governing body, the less of it you have.
The proper way to look at this triangle is to know that whoever has the long side is calling the shots, as well as to know that the individual and the government will always be directly opposite each other in the balance of power. For instance, let’s say we have two nations where the above triangle is an accurate representation of the balance of power in each nation; but one is rather more totalitarian than the other. Their graphs would look something like this:
The purple is power retained by the government; the yellow is power granted to individuals. And yes, individuals do have more say over their own lives in Country A, and the choice between the two would not be difficult. But the fact remains that in both cases it’s the government granting that amount of power to the individual — meaning that the government can also take it away. That black bar moves up and down at their whim, and there’s not much, if anything, you can do about it.
Okay, so this is the natural balance of power — what is the unnatural then?
Glad you asked. It looks something like this:
In this chart, it’s the individual who has the long side, and is therefore calling the shots. There is, however, a rather massive problem — when was the last time you were able to stand a triangular object on its point? If you managed it, how long did it stay up? This is an unstable condition at best; this is a chart in which the government has too little power. Just as a triangular object balanced in such a way will inevitably succumb to gravitational forces and topple onto its side, so too is a nation that is governed in such a manner ripe for the taking by those who are power-hungry and ruthless enough to grab for it. Trouble will come, power will shift, the triangle will fall over, and the individual will once again be left with the tip.
(One of the oft-told lies about the Tea Party movement is that we want no government whatsoever. Not true. Total lack of government — anarchy — is antithetical to the cause of freedom for the simple reason that it cannot last. People cannot maintain a society with no laws, and laws are useless without a governing body to enforce them. Such a setup is an open invitation for the aforementioned power-hungry and ruthless to step in. This is why you often see proponents of Communism, a vastly totalitarian form of government, marching under an anarchist banner. It may seem contradictory, but in reality anarchy — a breakdown of law and order — would be a very quick way of establishing a totalitarian regime.)
And we come to the end of this admittedly depressing lesson with an equally depressing question: Is there nothing to be done to ensure that the balance of power rests with the individual? Are we forever doomed to be subject to the whims of a ruling class? This was the question that was presented to the Founding Fathers of the United States of America not once, but twice. And in our next lesson, we will have a look at both of their answers.