May 17, 2011

GW: On power, freedom, good and evil, and bureaucracy

(Translation follows)
  • Makt, som er det eneste eksisterende prinsipp, betyr bare en ting: adgang til å påføre andre smerte.
  • Friheten er at man hvert sekund må velge selv – at ingen i himmelen og på jorden kan hjelpe en med noe.
  • Jeg tror ikke mennesker er ondt, eller at mennesket er godt, - jeg tror at mennesket er delvis ondt og delvis godt. Hvilken side som skal få vokse og utvikle seg, avhenger av oss selv.

  • Det autoritære menneske trives bare, det føler seg bare trygt og lykkelig, når det selv innordner seg i et system hvor det har folk over seg, og folk under seg,- når det blir sparket ovenfra, og selv kan sparke nedover.
  -- Jens Bjørneboe (*)


Today - as you probably do not know if you are not Norwegian - it is Norway's National Day, and having mentioned Jens Bjørneboe yesterday I just gave today some quotes of his, in Norwegian.

Not desiring to make things more difficult than they are, but being in the mood to see a little Norwegian (which is a nice and concise language, briefer than English, and capable of being quite clear, and more so than Dutch, that easily gets quite obscure because of its many loan words, that very often are partially and stupidly "Dutchified", so that the result is unrecognizable from its spelling or root: "seks" for example for "sex", "buro" for "bureau" a.s.o.) here are my free translations of the above quotes, that each concerns some important human theme:
  • Power, which is the only effective moral principle, means just one thing: The possibility to cause another pain.
  • Freedom is what one must choose for oneself every second - there is nobody in heaven or on earth who can help you with this.
  • I do not believe human beings are evil, or that human beings are good - I believe that human beings are partially evil and partially good. Which side will grow and get cultivated, depends on ourselves.
  • Authoritarian human beings only prosper, they feel themselves safe and happy, when they have subordinated themselves in a system in which there are folks above them, and folks below them - when they get kicked from above, and themselves can kick those below.
I quote them to make you think - not to lay down the law.

Indeed, there is more to power than only the capacity to cause another pain, but that is a very important aspect of all real power: That it can hurt, without much of a risk that the powerful who hurt can themselves get hurt by those who they do hurt. And there is more to freedom than choosing for oneself, such as being left that choice by others and the laws of one's society, but indeed you won't exercise your capacities if you don't use them. And surely some humans are worse than others, like some are better, but in the end all humans make choices, and these often are moral choices, and the weak, the lazy, the cowardly and the conformist make the choices that cause themselves the least pain, often disregarding or willfully blind to the fate of others. Finally, there is more to authoritarian personalities than being part of some social/institutional sm-schema that one may not, should not, dare not call an sm-scheme, even though that's easy to see for outsiders. (See: Groupthinking)

Finally, having indulged in the luxury of quoting someone else on the sicknesses and perversions of power, freedom, human evil, and authoritarian personalities, here is a quote from me on the kinds of men and institutiosn that enables the abuse of power while serving the abusers of power:

Bureaucracy: Administrators, civil servants - group of men and women, normally highly privileged (though they usually deny this, falsely), who do the paper and legal work for a government, whether this is a state or city, and who are often the real holders of power, because they make most decisions, and prepare the materials and information on the basis of which parliaments or city-councils decide.

One of the greatest mistakes of Max Weber is his inaccurate diagnosis of bureaucracy and bureaucrats, as the administrators are probably best called:

These men and women are not an innocuous, objective group who do the work of a state or government, but a group of the - usually, normally, on average, in effect, if not immediately then after some years - morally and intellectually unqualified who, through their usual lack of all human excellence, because of their function, find themselves in positions of great effective power and considerable remuneration, which moreover is mostly totally uncontrolled and without sanction.

It also is a group of people that, in the interest of a well-run state or government, should be almost wholly removed, and replaced by persons who do a similar job for some years only, and as a kind of social service, because they already do similar work in society, and who get replaced after some years of social service, by others.

This seems the only way to achieve good government, government that can be controlled, and indeed government that is a real democracy, for only when the people as a matter of social service for some years of their lives do the work bureacrats do now all their lives, as a career, in the midst of tenthousands like-minded life-long careerists, usually as grey, as average, as common as the tenthousands others, is the power of the state, the government or the city, no longer in the hands of a caste of grey and devious servants, clerks, and fountain-pen murderers, but in the hands of the actual people who do the actual work, and who have no actual interest in corruption, a government-career, or in doing dirty deeds to retain pension-rights, perks, or promotions.

Much of what goes wrong in modern societies, states and cities goes wrong because the real power is in the hands of the bureaucracy, and these are persons who are not fit to have such power, but who achieve it because as things work the real power falls in their hands by default, through their being the nominal - very improperly named - 'civil servants' in a life-long career, and because, as said, in fact their group - their colleagues, friends, family-members who also are 'civil servants' - execute the decisions of those in nominal power, and also prepare these decisions, and also, as a rule, deal with whatever firms are supposed to do the actual work the state or city does.

So... having made that diagnosis, here is part of the proposal of my cure - and as long as this has not been realized, authoritarian states and authoritarian bureaucracies are everywhere waiting their chance to take over "in your own best interest", as they will say, like bureaucrats and leaders always love to pretend:

Government by the people: Instead of a bureaucracy and instead of military service, every adult citizen in society should spend two or three years of his or her life as a civil servant, in the type of job and with the sort of payment one receives in ordinary life, organized on the lines of a governmental Manpower office, also manned by such civil servants, that takes care that the tasks now done by state bureaucracy will be done by properly and honestly by ordinary civilians doinbg their civil service.

This is a system of real democratic government, that avoids all or most of the dangers of bureaucracy (careerism, corruption, loyalty to - aspiring - dictators, parasitism, incompetence, manipulation, lack of control by the population), and effectively does give the power to the people, for it in effect delivers the everyday practical government in the hands of the people, for the few years that they do social service as civil servant. Besides, it makes every adult participate in actual government during some period of his or her life, and it gives every citizen a chance to be a civil servant, and to replace the bureaucratic caste of state servants that currently have most of the everyday power in so-called "democratic" states, and which is a type of man that can and should be wholly done away with. Real power to the people - by civil service.

This must be practically feasible, since very few bureaucratic jobs require much special expertise, knowledge of schooling that people working outside bureaucracy in society do no already have.

Two important guiding principles here are:

  • ALL political and bureaucratic positions should be temporal and for a few years at most
  • ALL political and bureaucratic positions should involve public accountability after the job is finished as regards finances spent and decisions made while the position was exercised

Note that what exists at present, in all states, everywhere, is just the opposite:

Bureaucratic and political functions have become positions a persons holds for life, and indeed quite often holds through generations, as if it is hereditary nobility: Children of politicians become politicians, often in their twenties without having had any real social job, and all such functions tend to be for life, dependent on and furthered by friends and colleagues who likewise hold bureaucratic and political functions for life.

The result is an effective caste of governors and administrators, consisting of friends, colleagues, and family members, who all protect each other and help promote each other, and whose real and effective moral main principle is to help, to protect and to promote ones colleagues because they are colleagues, and because the pension rights, perks, and side benefits of conformist correct helping each other to power and to serve power are great.

The advantages of being a decent, conformist, well-behaved bureaucrat who does as he has been told by his superiors and colleagues have become very great in such careers that extend through a whole life, for all politically correct conformers: Excellent pensions, many special rights, perks and subsidies for oneself and one's children; many special advantages of the functions one has for a long time, both legal, illegal and in-between; for politicians excellent chances on high bureaucratic functions like mayorships and commissariats of important firms; and for all of the higher ranks the advantages of being well-known public face with easy access to the media, and for getting one's way with the help of friends and colleagues.

I regard all this as dangerous: Democratic government is government by the people, and not by a caste of lifelong governors, whether bureaucrats or politicians, for that corrupts and makes impossible for the governed to control their governors.

Thence the bureaucracy plan: Give the power to the people by making every sane citizen in principle a state-servant for some years, in a function for which he or she has the expertise already, from his or her normal job, and with similar pay, but for a limited time, and with effective financial and political control after the temporal function has been laid down again, and the person who exercised returns to his normal social job and position.


(*) Jens Bjørneboe, a Norwegian author who lived from 1920-1976,  and probably is best known through the three volumes that make up "The history of bestiality", which is concerned with man's inhumanity to man.

P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.

Incidentally: The above is a radical plan that, if put into practice, will alter society and the possibility of the worst kinds doing harm to the best without effective responsibility, and it is not utopian, but practicable.

I agree with Hazlitt, though, that

Man is a make-believe animal - he is never so truly himself as when he is acting a part.

and that

If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago.

Even so... things do not need to be as stupid or rotten as they all too often are:

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"
  -- attr. to Edmund Burke.

As an aside a remark on my html-editor: I am very pleased to say this text was written in KompoZer 08.b3 and not in MS Frontpage.

As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence".
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

    "Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)


See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

Maarten Maartensz (M.A. psy, B.A. phi)

        home - index - top - mail