Circling the drain

By Nathan Barton

It is hard to see things deteriorate and decay.  bad enough to see the scrapes and scratches and dents on that old car that was your pride and joy a few years ago.  Even worse to open the hood and trunk and see the failing hoses and corrosion and leaks of oil and more.  But it is a reminder that everything that is manmade is going to decay, to wear out, to break down.  Without good care and careful use, the lifespan of anything that we create is very short.  And even then, exposure to the stresses of weather and use (including sunlight and wind and plants and animals) inevitably destroys most things.

Often, the very purpose for which we make something is the genesis of its ultimate failure and turning into junk. It takes hard work to keep things in good, working condition.

So it is with society.  And with civilization in general. And especially with human government, and the entities we create. Even the most beneficial and necessary of our institutions ultimately vanish away – or evolve into something totally unlike what they started out as.  Sometimes, they are destroyed.

Consider libraries. The greatest library of the ancient world, at Alexandria in Egypt, was destroyed in a war: its contents lost. Today perhaps the oldest continuously operating library is that of St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai, also in Egypt, having existed since 550 AD. I am told the oldest continuously operating “public library” in the world is the National Library of France, dating from 1368.  The famed British Library was not established until 1753, and the Library of Congress in 1789. And its collection was destroyed twice, in 1814 (during a war) and in 1851 in a fire. At the same time, a library in 2019 is NOT very similar to any of these ancient libraries.

But more important, consider governments.  Millennia ago, virtually all human societies were conned into accepting human government, coercive and worse, as “essential” for society. It was a sad day, and has made for a sad history of mankind.

Since then, we have seen (and endured) governments rising and decaying and falling. And virtually always replaced by something else.  Often worse.

Human governments are first and foremost human.  Setting aside moral issues (and the biblical understanding that human government is of necessity a rebellion against God), human creations decay and fail.  Including (and especially) government because by its very nature it is naturally corrupt.

Even governments that were (relatively speaking) somewhat decent and supportive of human liberty decay.  A partial list from history might include:

  • Canaan in the time of Abraham
  • The Hebrew tribes in Canaan “under the Judges”
  • Some of the Greek city-states
  • The early Roman republic
  • The Swiss Confederation after the fall of Napoleon
  • Post-Reconquista Spain
  • Some of the early British and French colonies in North America
  • The Thirteen States under the Articles of Confederation
  • The early years of the United States under the 1787 Constitution
  • Some of the mining districts in the Western States

(Notice, I am NOT saying these were anything close to perfect – each of these had really serious problems. And regardless of their qualities, they are illegitimate morally. They were just much less bad than the general run of human government.)

However good (or endurable) these were, every time we find that the nature of the government fairly quickly deteriorated.  And ultimately failed and fell.  Sometimes they were replaced by something better.  But too often, what ultimately replaced them was worse.  We see it even more when we look at the really bad governments which ALSO deteriorated and decayed.  Some examples:

  • Russian Empire – the Czar replaced by the Soviets
  • German Empire – the Weimar Republic was pretty bad but probably better than the Kaiser and all the kingdoms: but the Third Reich was far, far worse
  • French Monarchy – the “people’s democracy” (not a term in use at the time) was quickly far more horrible than the Ancien Regime, and got worse and worse, ultimately replaced by Bonaparte’s Empire

We could add dozens more, of course, but this makes the point.

Like all human inventions, governments are not forever: they deteriorate and decay, getting worse and worse, and ultimately collapse and fall.  Since their foundation is built on sand, immoral and opposed to liberty, they start out bad and get really bad. Abusive by their very nature (even if initially constrained by idealism, faith, and ethical goals), they become tyrannical, and ultimately nothing more than opportunities for the controllers and the parasites to have more and more control, and suck more and more blood from the people in their society.  If the process goes on too long, the governments pull down their society with them, as we have seen happen in Russia, much of Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

Can the cycle be broken?  It seems unlikely, based on 6,000 years of human history. But that may not be all bad: the cycle lets at least some generations have the opportunity to build something better – and even, eventually, the opportunity to break the cycle of human government.

We may now be going through the next bottoming out of this cycle right here in the Fifty States.  We perhaps WILL have the opportunity, at least in some of the States, to break this cycle.  We must work towards that goal.


About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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