Thursday, October 26, 2006


Tibor R. Machan

Those who write about politics are bound to complain a lot. No wonder. Throughout human history governments have perpetrated more misery than all criminals combined. Indeed, it is probably true beyond any reasonable doubt that most governments have been criminal gangs -- conquerors, bullies, robbers, murderers, ethnic cleansers and other type of oppressors. It is governments, so-called, that have started wars, enslaved huge numbers of people, kept minorities destitute and powerless.

Sure, governments have had the support of many civilians but these civilians rarely had the weapons to carry out the vicious deeds for which governments are famous. Civilians can only implore, urge, plead, try to bribe -- it takes those who hold and wield power to actually commit the vile deeds. (One reason I have never been an avid supporter of the police is that however much good they do, they also tend to blindly carry out the orders of governments, orders that on the whole tend to be directed toward violating the rights of individuals all over the place. How can one admire a profession that simply "follows orders?")

Yet, all this focus on government and its misdeeds throughout the ages and around the globe can give the wrong impression. It is as if nothing good happened anywhere. But that is to confuse government with the rest of society. And in most societies there is ample good going on. Most human relations apart from government are pretty decent, even admirable. All the creativity and productivity we have around us -- those activities that enhance efficiency, those that contribute to beauty and comfort, those that heal and cure -- come not from government but from individuals cooperating in society. (I hesitate to call it the "private" sector because strictly speaking these social undertakings are not private but very much cooperative.)

Someone who focuses on all the misdeeds of governments may seem oblivious to all the wonderful results of free social cooperation and, also, of individual initiative. As an avid fan of novels, both classical and popular music, the arts, the crafts and the sciences, I am especially concerned that we in the media don't stress all the good which comes from these corners.

Each night I go to sleep to the sounds of music -- three hundred CDs playing randomly, filling my little home with the most wonderful sounds. (I could list dozens and dozens of particular performers and artists but I am sure you can fill up your own list.) Each night I read about 10 pages from yet another novel that thrills me, that takes me into the souls of carefully imagined characters. Each night I walk to my bedroom taking a look at one or another of the paintings on my walls. And when I do this, I am so grateful for all that creativity, sensitivity, imagination that fills my life with joy.

Many years ago I saw a Seventh Day Adventist bumper sticker that read, "Notice the good and praise it," and I have been a devoted follower of this little, not widely enough heeded, motto. There is really so much that is utterly fabulous in our world, from one's neighborhood to the farthest corners. But if one keeps thinking only of what politicians and bureaucrats do and say, one will miss out on these. Then there are, of course, the joys of one's family and friends and, yes, even colleagues and associates. And all these are quite sufficient to offset a good deal of the destructiveness perpetrated by government and its lackeys, those, sadly, who keep being honored with buildings and statutes and institutes and such. In newspapers there is rarely much fuss about the latest novel a local citizen has written, a beautiful painting someone in the city has painted, a symphony or song or musical composed -- certainly not on the front pages. Yet those are the substance of most of our lives. But when one turns on th e so-called news, national or local, the bulk of what is thrust at us consists of nothing but misery.

I will, of course, continue to harp on all the bad stuff, hoping it may make a bit of difference. But it is also vital to make note of just how much good stuff there is to go around.

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