A great deal of popular thinking – or, ‘thinking’ – about public policy seems to proceed as follows:
First comes the correct observation that our earthly existence not only isn’t heavenly, it’s not as ideal as can be easily imagined.
Then, second, comes the horribly incorrect process of simply assuming that the state is an agency with superhuman powers and motivation that can rather smoothly engineer reality to be much closer to an imagined ideal.
Third, although the number of different imagined ideal states of the world is almost as great as is the number of people who have imaginations, the typical advocate of ‘changing the world’ either naively assumes that his imagined ideal is shared by all, or arrogantly supposes that his ideal – being best by his lights – will somehow eventually and fully win the day.
Fourth, the only obstacle recognized as obstructing this superhuman agency’s ability to engineer us all to an ideal state is the nefarious opposition of greedy special interests and ignorant ideologues on the other side of the political divide. The snarling, satanic bad guys and gals wage evil war on the angelic good guys and gals.
Fifth, the belief in this lone obstacle – that is, the belief that were it not for this nefarious opposition by the greedy and the ignorant our world would soon be much closer to heavenly – inspires blind hatred of one’s political and ideological opponents.
Sixth, because so very much is at stake – namely, escaping the hell of today’s reality for the heaven of tomorrow’s paradise – there is no place for bourgeois niceties such as humility, respect for the truth, and politeness to one’s ideological opponents.
People, left and right, who follow this six-step ‘thought’ process stubbornly will not hear those who point out that the state is a human institution that, while it might well possess vast powers to coerce, cage, and kill, simply does not have, and cannot ever have, the superhuman intelligence and access to knowledge – not to mention the god-like benevolence – that would be necessary even to begin to engineer society to a better condition.