Current Observations Home Current Observations Home Current Observations Home

Arbitrary Power

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The following excerpt is about arbitrary power taken from James Bovard's 1999 book, Freedom in Chains:
   Arbitrary power is a moral issue that goes to the heart of the relation of the citizen to the State. Benjamin Constant beautifully expressed the danger of arbitrary power in his 1815 book, Principles of Politics:
Arbitrary power destroys morality, for there can be no morality without security.... Arbitrariness is incompatible with the existence of any government considered as a set of institutions. For political institutions are simply contracts; and it is in the nature of contracts to establish fixed limits. Hence arbitrariness, being precisely opposed to what constitutes a contract, undermines the foundation of all political institutions.
The more arbitrary power bureaucrats acquire, the less likely fairness will result. The essence of arbitrary power is government's refusal to issue clear rules limiting its prerogative to punish private citizens. Because the affirmative action police, the housing police, and the trade police seek maximum discretion, rules are left vague, if not hopelessly confusing or impossible to comply with.
   Big Government almost automatically destroys the moral foundation necessary for its credibility. Every arbitrary government action sends out shock waves that undermine government legitimacy. People learn to despise the State at the same time that the State is most adamant about imposing its moral judgment on its citizenry. The more fair that politicians claim to forcibly make society, the more unfair the average citizen perceives everyday life. According to a 1996 Washington Post poll, "Today, nearly two in three Americans believe that most people can't be trusted; three decades ago a majority of Americans believed that most people could be trusted." This collapse in faith is, in part, the result of the growing chasm between common, everyday conceptions of fairness and the bureaucratic-political conceptions of fairness increasingly imposed on people's lives.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger |



Who Links