When I feel guilty about something, like hurting someone, I want to fix it. By making the injured person feel better, I feel better. That’s the natural reaction to guilt.
Healthy guilt helps us right a wrong we’ve personally done to someone. It gives back what was taken, but also restores our reputation as honest and trustworthy. The other person then knows we operate with integrity, even when we make a mistake.
Guilt is also a powerful weapon. It can be used to compel others to do something they might otherwise not do, all while they’re convinced they’re doing it of their own free will. Wow! To get someone to do something for you and make it their idea means you have power. Applied to a large group of people simultaneously when it goes against their own best interest, means you have immense power.
Unhealthy guilt coerces us to act against our own best interest. It can result in us giving up something that’s rightly ours, for a reason that has nothing to do with us, to a person who also has nothing to do with the cause.
Similarly, compassion can be an admirable trait when acted upon. It comes from our inherent understanding of the human condition, and the suffering that is an inextricable part of life.
Most of us want to help others. When we see someone that has fewer comforts, or is suffering more, we naturally want to help. So, we come up with our own ideas of how to do it. Simple or grand, the ideas result in becoming a volunteer–to volunteer money, time, or equipment, on our own terms. When we make someone’s life a bit easier, we feel good.
What would happen if a small group of people wanted power over the rest of the people, but knew that overt force wouldn’t work? What if this small group were to identify an aspect of the human condition–yes, an inextricable part of life on Earth–as an inhuman problem that must be fixed, then quickly identify themselves as able to fix it?
The first thing that would happen is to arouse our compassion for the suffering. In fact, this particular problem might exist in our own family or circle of friends–all the more motivating. Someone should do something.
Once enough people are aware of the problem, identify the source of the problem and make it personal. Hey, it’s YOUR fault! Remind everyone again that your small group is most compassionate and has a solution. By the way, our small group doesn’t actually have the means to implement their proposed solution, but if you guilty parties give us your money, we’ll fix it. You can go on your merry way, minus whatever you voluntarily gave up.
Does this scenario sound plausible? Likely to succeed? Familiar? It is how good intentions turn into bad government. Name a problem with national media exposure, and one can trace its development from either an obscure event or a common human condition to a compulsory part of the federal budget.
Who is this small group, anyway? It’s individuals elected or appointed to national office. There are 546 of them. What happens when the other 99.9% of individuals give up something to the government? It quickly becomes forever compulsive, if not so at the outset.
What IS the best way to solve problems? Family, friends and local communities, or government? If your answer is government, do you prefer locally developed, locally tailored government solutions, or one size fits all solutions?
For those on the collectivist side of the political spectrum, government–big, central government, in particular–has all the answers. We must all submit to the common good.
My reply is that real problems don’t have neatly packaged solutions that can be centrally planned and managed, and ‘the common good’ is a Trojan horse. If real problems did have solutions, they would have been solved long ago. In any case, government doesn’t have anything with which to solve problems that they didn’t first take from the governed.
It’s reasonable to expect authority over your personal property. If the government just openly took it, there would be riots. The kinder, gentler tactic is to create guilt. That way we think it was our idea since we’re fixing a problem for which we’re guilty. That way we don’t complain…after all, we’re being compassionate. Right? Well, the government takes credit for its solution, before the results are in, and after it took your resources to do it.
If you want to help someone, help them directly. You both win. The government isn’t helping, and creates winners and losers in the process of not helping. If you truly think you’re helping by paying taxes or giving up a piece of your liberty, try to identify a problem it has really solved. For my own efforts, I can’t even find a problem it didn’t create or exacerbate.
The 10th amendment was meant to keep power dispersed. That way, when a government inevitably tried to solve a problem so it could claim credit, an individual could shop around for another government who’s solution was less detrimental to his well being. When enough people had left that state, the offending government would ostensibly get the message. A powerful central government is one from which there is no escape.
Just as your things and your money are your personal property, so is your compassion. If you let someone else control it with guilt, you allow them to make themselves your better, and they become your ruler.
I can’t think of a better example of coercion.
Scott Martin is the State Chapter Coordinator for the South Carolina Tenth Amendment Center.
If you enjoyed this post:
Click Here to Get the Free Tenth Amendment Center Newsletter,