Naive ideas of trust?


It is very difficult for most people to imagine life without government. Since evil exists in the world and everyone has a tendency for some degree of evil (no one is perfect), they hold that it would be foolish to allow individuals to be able to live without someone imposing rules on them. To think otherwise is in their minds naïve.

When I offer my views about government, a fairly common response is “Wow, you sure do have a lot of trust in people.” It has become almost vogue for people adopt very cynical views of humanity and people often talk about how stupid the average person is. To them, this is exactly the reason why you cannot allow people to govern themselves. There are too many people who would not know what’s best for themselves.

This is similar to the “but people are evil” argument, to which the typical response is: why would you then decide that it’s a good idea to pick some of these evil people to be the rulers?

The “people are stupid” argument is a bit different. The view is borne out of a perverted sense of condescending compassion for these people. Without someone guiding their lives, they might hurt themselves or others. However, similar to countering the “evil” argument, you can argue that by supporting some form of democratic government, you support these stupid people having a significant role in deciding who your ruler will be. The only way to prevent that from happening would be to not give them any say in the decision-making, but this requires the question of where to draw the line of too stupid to vote to be answered.

Even if separating these stupid people out were achievable, it would be unnecessary. Most people who find themselves in positions of political power would not find it difficult to dupe these people into gaining their support. It already happens today as political rationality is not common among people. Many people don’t even know why they support certain candidates. They cannot name policies or platforms. And these people will inevitably vote for policies and candidates that will actually do harm to them in some way. After all, Republicans often scoff at Democrats for supporting laws that will end up hurting themselves and Democrats laugh at Republicans for the same reason.

So it is naïve of me to want people to decide their own fates? Or is it more naïve to trust the rulers to not take advantage of all of these people you deem to be stupid? Just think about the politicians in your own country or state or town. You may like a certain group of politicians and think they would somehow act altruistically and not take advantage of an easy situation, but what if the other guys got in, the ones you don’t like? Would you trust them treat these people justly?

There is a lot to be gained by being able to manipulate large groups of people. Why set up a situation where manipulation becomes easier and trust is crucial?