The Psychology of Unlimited Government

A graph depicts the order of the law: Executive to Legislative to Judicial

It’s easy to blame everything on bad politicians. However, as the late comedian George Carlin used to point out, voters are the ones who put them in there; and keep putting them in there.

Politicians will do what they do based on the attitudes of millions of voters. Those attitudes are determined by psychological factors within individual people; and the psychological factors are ultimately determined by philosophical beliefs and ideas.

In that context, look at the latest poll findings from [from 2-20-15]:

Most Americans think the president shouldn’t be able to ignore the courts – but nearly half of Democrats disagree, a new poll shows.

The Rasmussen Reports survey finds 60 percent believe the commander in chief shouldn’t be able to ignore federal court decisions, with just 26 percent disagreeing.

“But perhaps more unsettling to supporters of constitutional checks and balances,” the report notes, is that 43 percent of Democrats believe the president ought to be able to ignore the courts if he believes it’s important for the country.

The report finds 35 percent of Democrats disagree with that view, compared with 81 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents.

Overall, the survey finds, 52 percent of all voters believe court challenges of presidential or congressional actions help protect the rights of citizens, while 30 percent think the legal challenges stand in the way of good policy.

When the American government was founded, the prevalent idea was that we should be a nation not of men, but of laws. The rule of law was very important. Powers — among the executive (President), legislative (Congress) and judicial (court) branches of government — were deliberately separated for that reason.

At present, we have a President who acts and even speaks as if he believes he’s in the right about something (immigration, interpretation of health care law, whatever), then the fact of his being right should supersede even the rule of law. He doesn’t put it quite that explicitly, but his actions do not lie.

And now the polls show that half of the people in his party openly admit that they don’t even care about the rule of law — at least, not if it’s on an issue where they agree with the President.

This is worse than hypocrisy. In the case of hypocrisy, you might hold a valid principle — “Separation of powers among the three branches of government is a valid principle” — but fail to apply it consistently in an inconvenient case. Hypocrisy is definitely not an admirable or a good thing. But when large numbers of people abandon a right principle altogether, and in essence conclude, “The hell with the rule of law and the Constitutional process of government — if it’s an issue I agree with the President on, then he should do whatever the hell he wants,” then civilization as we know it is in real trouble.

This is how dictatorships happen. Once you grant unlimited or unchecked authority to a single person in the government, the Constitution is — for all practical purposes — finished, both in principle and in practice. Granted, we’re talking about half of the Democratic Party here; we’re talking about maybe a third of the electorate, assuming this poll is accurate. Not everyone is on board with the principle, but a huge number are. And that number is probably growing. Presidents, not just this one, but the next one, are noticing.

A third of the electorate is now predisposed, psychologically, to dictatorship — assuming the dictatorship will do what they wish, of course. These same Democrats who support President Obama doing whatever the hell he wants — even in defiance of court decisions — would undoubtedly not support a President with a different ideological agenda doing whatever he or she wants, in defiance of court decisions. (For example, President Sarah Palin defying a Supreme Court decision upholding the legality of abortion or gay marriage would likely be a non-starter.) And, when the tables are turned, what are these Democrats supposed to do then? They’ll likely rush to the courts or even call for impeachment. But if you’ve already granted the President extra Constitutional powers, how are you to count on that President even listening to the verdict of a Congress who votes for impeachment? There’s no logical endpoint here, other than the anarchy of dictatorship.

On a deeper level, political attitudes are caused by psychological tendencies in large numbers of people. One of these psychological tendencies (rooted ultimately in philosophy, the theory of how we gain knowledge) is subjectivism. Subjectivism refers to the view that emotions are equivalent to, or even superior in truth to, objective facts and truth ascertained by logic. In this context, subjectivism refers to the policy of placing one’s emotionally held (rather than rationally validated) ideals as the standard of truth and justice.

People who feel like a certain policy (e.g., Obama’s feelings about immigration) is the right one want that policy imposed. They reject and resent the idea that they must work cooperatively in a society where laws — not men — are ultimately the rule of the land. They detest consistency or principle when it gets in the way of what they feel they want. Subjectivism in psychology (derived from philosophy) ultimately leads to an attitude of, “I’m sick of not getting my way. I’m sick of not having the kinds of policies I want. Somebody has got to do something. Let the President do whatever he wants, because it will feel good to me, and other factors be damned.”

I recognize that “the law” is fallible. There are unjust laws. There can be evil laws. But the only way to get around this fact is to have a Constitutionally based, limited government with the final principle always the upholding of individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. That’s supposed to be the objective standard, and feelings are no substitute for that standard.

There are many, many unjust laws today because all three branches of government, for philosophical reasons, have drifted away from that standard. The entire welfare and transfer-of-wealth state violates the Constitution, but developed and is upheld because so many people feel this is the more compassionate or proper way to be. It started small and has grown to fiscally and morally unsustainable proportions. But replacing the rule of objective law with the whims or desires of any particular President or political faction, whenever it happens to be convenient, is no solution to the problem that many of our laws are wrong. And those half of Democrats who support Obama in doing whatever he wants to do aren’t interested in a free republic, anyway. They simply want the socialist/redistributionist/egalitarian state (or whatever you wish to label it) imposed wholesale, and without the impediment of the Constitution. Getting more citizens ensnared in the entitlement state is the obvious motive for making immigrants instant legal citizens. The more people dependent on the government, the stronger government will be — and the less still the rule of law will matter to people who support this state of affairs.

How ironic. Obama was supposed to be a brilliant Constitutional scholar who would save the United States from itself. He has contributed disproportionately to “saving” the United States by essentially ending any last remaining remnants of adherence to the idea of a government of objective laws rather than a government of subjective men.

Subjectivism in life spells the beginning of the end of rational, credible behavior. Subjectivism applied to government ultimately leads to dictatorship — specifically, the dictatorship of some people’s emotions over others.



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