Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Much Salt?

"All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose permits something not to be poisonous." - Paracelsus

That is to say, substances often considered toxic can be benign or beneficial in small doses, and conversely an ordinarily benign substance can be deadly if over-consumed. Even water can be deadly if overconsumed.
– Wikipedia secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men...
There can be no liberty without government coercion to provide consistent enforcement of appropriate abstract rules. These rules may be traditions, morality, arbitrary but necessary rules (e.g., which side of the road to drive on) and the intentional adjustments of traditions enacted as laws.

Rules are abstract in that they apply to everyone and do not exist for the benefit of anyone.

Yet government poisons liberty; weakening it and eventually destroying it. Government is like salt: a little bit is necessary for life; a bit more changes the taste of things; more than a small amount, broadly applied, kills.

Not all philosophers agree, but those people who rebelled against England and set up our nation and its government certainly believed that Government makes liberty possible, but more government does not necessarily “improve” or expand liberty. More than a little bit is too much.

Political debate ought to recognize that more than some amount is bad, yet some prefer a saltier stew than others. Our politics ought to be about how much salt to put in the stew, not whether everything ought or ought not be salted down and preserved.

Instead, Progressivism sees government as that from which all blessings flow – the only questions being what form of government and who should be in charge. Like the child who, when not getting as big a piece of cake as he wants complains that he is not getting any, Progressives mock those who recognize that government is a poison, accusing them of being closet anarchists, opposing all forms of government. To be honest, few seem to recognize both how necessary government is to liberty, and how poisonous it is to liberty.

(If Progressives disagree with the philosophy of Liberty based on limited government, they ought to be honest and put it to a vote: If 2/3 of both houses and 3/4 of the states agree, the contractual foundation of our government can be changed. Because it can be amended, The Constitution is not and cannot be dead, but it can be ignored.)

The State both enables and delimits liberty
Freedom (liberty) cannot exist in the absence of restraints on others from invading ones own sphere of legitimate autonomy – either restraints on usurpation by ones neighbors or protection from general attack on the society.

F. A. Hayek wrote (and I quote extensively because I haven’t figured how to say it better):
Freedom requires that the individual be allowed to pursue his own ends: one who is free is in peacetime no longer bound by the common concrete ends of his community. Such freedom of individual decision is made possible by delimiting distinct individual rights ( the rights of property, for example) and the designating domains within which each can dispose over means known him for his own ends. That is, a recognizable free sphere is determined for each person. This is all important. For has something of one’s own, however little, is also the foundation on which a distinctive personality candy four and it just think of environment created within which particular individual aims can be pursued.

General freedom in [Bertrand Russell’s sense of ‘ absence of all obstacles to the realization of our desires’] is nevertheless impossible, for the freedom of each would founder on the unlimited freedom, i.e., the lack of restraint, of all others.

The question then is how to secure the greatest possible freedom for all. This can be secured by uniformly restricting the freedom of all by abstract rules that preclude arbitrary or discriminatory coercion by or of other people, that prevent any from invading the free sphere of any other. In short, common concrete ends are replaced by common abstract rules. Government is needed only to enforce these abstract rules, and thereby to protect the individual against coercion or invasion of his free sphere, by others.

- "The Revolt of Instinct and Reason", The Fatal Conceit, by F.A. Hayek.

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