Daily Archives: July 12, 2008

If It Is Broken, What Do You Do?

Thoreau is unhappy with the ongoing revelations of executive branch lawlessness and the failure of our supposed great system of checks and balances to reign in immoral and illegal executive branch behavior. What to do?

Yes, an argument can be made that however much Reid and Pelosi and their cohort deserve punishment, the other side deserves even more punishment. That’s assuming that you continue to accept the premises of the system, and dutifully choose between the party that commits the crimes and the party with a leadership that will not actually stop the crimes.

Well, a close look at the last 100 years might suggest that both parties have been busy both committing a wide variety of legislative crimes, coming up with ways to mask the crimes and, more importantly, committing even more crimes of a moral nature.
Thoreau than explores possible courses of action in the upcoming election season:

If nobody else is voting third party, it’s irrational for you to vote third party. However small the difference between the parties might be, if there’s any difference at all, and if those are the only viable options, then you are being completely rational by voting for the guys who promised to at least pick the undigested corn kernels out of the sh!t sandwich.

This sounds to me much like the old “I chose the lesser evil argument.” I’ve mistakenly gone down that road myself more than once. I’m reminded of this:

Moreover, if we look at the techniques of totalitarian government, it is obvious that the argument of “the lesser evil”–far from being raised only from the otside by those who do not belong to the ruling elite–is one of the mechanisms built into the machinery of terror and criminality. Acceptance of lesser evils is consciously used in conditioning the government officials as well as the population at large to the acceptance of evil as such.
Hannah Arendt, “Personal Responsibiity Under Dictatorship,” in Responsibility, pgs 36-37

If you have not read this essay previously it is time to do so now; if you have read it before, read it again (PDF).

As to the title question: we can start by withdrawing our support from a broken system lurching toward an abyss. We can follow by encouraging others to withdraw their support and to begin working together to build a new system truly built on the idea that we each have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.