25 April 2008

How to get better?

At Samizdata, Johnathan Pearce has asked another of the fundamental questions. By what route do we get from where we are to a better situation for the country?

The problem is that even attempting to carry out such a programme entails playing the political game. And a key part of the political game is feeding the movement by handing out patronage. If you're not doing that, you're not really playing the game, you're just posturing.

How did Thatcher manage to fight the overgrown state for three terms, with two landslide majorities, and yet leave it as large as she found it? Because every victory had to be paid for by buying support somewhere else.

So slimming the state through the system is out of the question. Fighting the system would not leave enough afterwards to help, even assuming (delusionally) that we had anything like the support to make it possible. There is the ASI approach of working through those in power, attempting to change their minds directly. The gains are marginal, but real. The necessity to a politician of defending statism so as to be able to reward supporters leads to a situation where the powerful believe their own propaganda beyond what is actually useful to them; that is why good argument can have some effect but never achieve real change.

Another opportunity for marginal change is direct action. The point of this is not to overthrow the system, but to change the incentives of those in power. Therefore aim not at the top, but at lower levels where the real damage is done by those making unseen decisions week by week and year by year.

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