About the current situation in our society, January 2013.

Having experienced the previous election of the House of Representatives held late last year, I thought we had many things that needed our deep considerations in the field of today’s politics. Recently, in January 2013, I had an interesting discussion about government with my friends on Facebook. Because I thought what I expressed in the discussion could be a good summary of my points, I would like to introduce it here. I added some additional sentences to the original text.

About Government

I suspect the mechanism called “government” has the following fundamental problems:

  1. Even if democracy works, the outputs from the government do not always benefit the people. It is inevitable for any “democratic” decision making processes to benefit the majority. As Lord Acton (1834-1902) once wrote, “the one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the┬ámajority”. You can see that there is a fundamental, unignorable contradiction between the following three: (1) the free market economy in which all participating individuals and parties have full discretion about their acts of business, (2) the liberalism that respects the autonomy of and autonomous decisions by individuals, and (3) the institution called “government”.
  2. Any government can have some great coercive power that no individual can compete with.
  3. Even when the government represents the people’s will correctly, its cost tends to be greater than its output or its expected benefit. Any government consumes tax, but it does not create any real wealths, and tends to be unproductive and inefficient.
  4. In spite of its total dependence on the people’s wealth, government, functioning as an automaton, always tries to protect and bloat itself, it having the full disposal of whether it pays attention to the people’s lives, health, welfare or interest or not.
  5. The government automaton is parasitic on the people’s mental dependence on the government (so, this is a kind of mutual dependence).
  6. Government, in general, not only protects and defends itself, but also makes every effort, in order to protect and fixate the status quo in our society, which includes the current institutional system for administration of the government, political and administrative mechanisms as well as existing social classes and hierarchies, by adjusting, or tailoring existing laws, or adding new laws or regulations defining administrative procedures. For example, progressive taxation is widely adopted and accepted in many countries. Usually, government officials and politicians tend to make it impossible to choose any other non-progressive methods of taxation, especially in the area of income tax, because they, as well as mass media, advertise that non-progressive methods unfairly benefit rich people. But the reason why this assertion becomes true is that they make it necessary for the government to impose a relatively heavy income tax on the people. So, any income tax tends to be institutionalized as a tax that is heavy and oppressive enough from the beginning. However, it should be more natural that any people, regardless of to which income rank they belong, need to pay only a small amount of money to the government as tax, by the government’s simply minimizing the cost for itself. As can be seen in the recent discussions about what relief measures should be taken when the standard rate for the consumption tax is increased from 5 % to 8 % in Japan next year, the government and politicians tend to guide the discussion, so that they can decide an amendment to the current consumption tax law by adopting an additional measure that is alleged to provide relief to lower-income peple, but such a combined tax procedure will be more complicated and will cost more than the current system. Instead of using such a trick, the government should only reduce its expenditure gradually, so that no new tax and no new tax hike will be necessary in the future.

I think that we should find and keep a good balance between what can be solved by measures undertaken by the government, and what should be treated with non-government solutions, and try to restrict the government power within a controllable small region in society. Without doing these, there will be no avoiding an exonomic collapse in the future.

On the other hand, there is the fact that it took many centuries for human beings to acquire even the current, at least formally, “democratic” system, and human beings had to experience atrocious wars and hardships in the long process of the struggle for democracy and liberty, and have built the current relationship between the state and the people. In this sense, although the people are more or less forced to endure the current disequilibrium between the power of the state and the individuals, it cannot be denied that a large proportion of one’s life is dependent on the measures undertaken by the government. Therefore, the importance of the state and its government should not be dismissed entirely.

Even when the representative system of democracy today has limitations, it is expected that we will lead it to a new state of equilibrium between the power of the state and the individuals. In order to achieve it, our further developing the free market by making the government smaller will not be sufficient. Each member of the society needs to be involved in the process of forming a framework of the new ethics based on liberty. When the ethical framework of liberty, part or whole, is commonly shared by the members, it will be possible that the fundamental rights of individuals will be protected and respected to the maximum degree, and also the integrity and order of the society can be preserved well.

In Japan, the two types of capitalism, viz. crony capitalism and state capitalism seem to be influential still today. Also, the 19th- and 20th-century enthusiasm for collectivist ideas, such as socialism and democratic-socialism seems to represent the people’s mental dependence on authorities, camoufraged with the words such as “Science”, “Ideal”, or “Welfare” advocated by those ideologies. Eric Hobbsbawm, historian, wrote that the 20th century was “the age of extremes”. It seems that we are haunted by the illusions created in the 20th century still today. Today, I believe that we should be more skeptical about anything.

 

Taro Yamamoto

2013.1.13

Japanese version