March, 2009

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Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

A. Bjork

I would not suppose that most men who have led totalitarian regimes began their careers as overly altruistic individuals.  However, I do believe that many did not begin as the cold-blooded manipulators that they ended up becoming.  Power corrupts both the corruptible and the innocent.

 

Consider a kid named Bud with his hand caught in his neighbors’ cookie jar.  Bud may start out as a semi-innocent child, and may even feel bad about stealing a cookie.  He may feel self-justified in that he is hungry and that his neighbor will not miss just one cookie.  But the days go on and his appetite grows larger, and one cookie is just not enough.  Bud begins taking two, then three, after which he soon comes to the realization that he not stealing at all.  In fact, his neighbor should have been giving him these cookies all along, because he is of course the smartest, nicest kid on the whole block!   By the time the neighbor realizes where all his cookies have been mysteriously disappearing to, it’s too late.  The innocent cookie-stealer has now eaten so many cookies that he has become the biggest, meanest cookie monster in the entire neighborhood.  However, many kids support Bud, because he promises that there will never be another shortage of cookies.  Somehow though, cookies are increasingly harder to come by.

 

Government must be held accountable for its actions.  Corruption will always occur where there exist hidden loopholes that allow for self-interested individuals to obtain what is not their own, at least when that information is hidden from the average Joe.  Not all Buds will go bad, but many will.  The public will be hurt by what they do not know, or what they find out too late.  Ignorance is never bliss. 

“The Cure to All Problems”

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

As Animal Farm portrays societies that think of a communist utopia as the only way to overcome their human problems will always end up committing the same mistakes they are trying to avoid. People’s self-interest is part of human nature and even though a totalitarian regime might attempt to suppress it (and be successful to some extent for some time) rulers will obviously continue to act in their own self-interest and eventually become or at least act identically to the supposed “enemy”.

With regards to the corrupting ability of power, I believe excess power in the hands of few is bound to corrupt people. However, when power decentralized I do not think it will necessarily lead to a totalitarian regime.

Well have you ladies heard…..

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I work with a group of “older ladies”, processors in the admissions office.  The things that these ladies loudly converse about are some of the greatest entertainment for the student workers.  They can range from childbirth to weight loss gimmicks, religious and inspirational forwards to my personal favorite, processor politics.  These women are all fairly average citizens I would venture to say and it’s so interesting to me when I get to eaves drop on what they think about popular issues and politicians.  As would be expected, their comments and perceptions are almost always cynical, critical, and pessimistic (that is unless there has been some sort of darling forward circulated about a politician praying or kissing babies in which case they love this individual).  Why is it that these women feel that government and the way it’s run is always so bad?  How do they feel that they have honest reason to think that they know better than the leaders of our country?  When people are governed under leaders this is often the case.  People are quick to criticize leaders that are not working in their best interest as they view that interest personally.  People think they know better because they know their own interests and that is what politicians and leaders should have in mind, right?
In Animal Farm, the animals are able to pull together and create a hugely successful society for a while.  This success comes from the empowerment the animals feel and their ability to work together running on residual unity.  The pigs felt that they knew best.  Although all animals were equal, in the end all were equal but some were more equal.  The leaders took it upon themselves to govern the society in a way that was most beneficial to them and thus in their eyes to everyone else.  To the other pigs and those benefitting from the pigs leadership, this was great.  To all of the other animals who may not have agreed with or benefitted from the pigs decisions, this was not right.  They could have done better if they were in charge just as the pigs were to have done better than when the humans had the power.

Obama and Napoleon?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

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Nate Whitaker

It is important to note that the animals on the farm started out with the best intentions. They saw a need for change and were willing to do anything necessary to accomplish such change. As I read the book, I was repeatedly reminded of certain aspects of our newly elected president, Obama. The pigs saw the need for “change” and came up with a plan in order to greatly improve society. One of the biggest problems with the society on the animal farm was the lack of education of the citizenry. Only a select few could even read past the letter A. Napoleon wanted to win the respect and isolate the youth of the community. Huh? This sounds vaguely familiar. Another downfall of the system was that the animals could not protect themselves from the pig leadership. Yet again there is someone in this country who has strongly advocated the deprivation or infringement of one of the most fundamental traditions of this country; the right eradication of guns from the citizens. The animals couldn’t hold the government responsible because the written rules were not followed and changed by the will of the government.

George Washington said, “If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change through usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”

You Know What Happens When We Assume…

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Jamie Wilson– Corrupt, totalitarian regimes arise like false blog prompts and incorrect posts. When someone assumes he or she knows what they are doing, but is actually far off base, a disconnect with reality is created. The larger the disconnect, the greater the problems that ensue. Assuming can be a very good thing. Engineers and scientists use assumptions all the time to help simplify complicated problems. The problem comes when one thinks they have the power to assume, when in fact they are not in the position to do so. The animals made a huge assumption that they could handle the ramifications of overthrowing Jones. General Ripper assumed he knew best when ordering the B-52s to nuke the Soviets. In both cases, the consequences of their respective actions soon overwhelmed them. Neither the animals nor Gen. Ripper wanted to admit that their assumptions had turned out to be incorrect, which is an even worse mistake. Because of their pride, they missed the only opportunity to fix the problems that had arisen and suffered tremendously as a result.

The only way to prevent such mistakes is to limit the number of assumptions that are made, which can be accomplished by spreading government around as much as possible. Some of life’s best systems are fairly complex structures, so we as a society should not strive to have simplicity in all things. We cannot be afraid of a little work or responsibility, especially when it can save us so much pain and heartache later on. If the animals on Animal Farm had realized this and taken more initiative in governing themselves and limiting assumptions, they would not have been reduced to slavery once again.

Fix-it Tickets and Fun at the Cache County Jail

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

One of my favorite novels of all time is All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.  I read it my senior year in high school and it was my first introduction to the corrupting nature of power and the role of politicians in our society.  The novel has since been turned into a movie starring Sean Penn who I could never take seriously as a politician due to his role in I Am Sam.  I can’t help it.

In this novel, Willie Stark is an innocent back-country lawyer who is sick of power-hungry politicians and their empty promises.  Against all odds he wins the support of voters and becomes governor of Alabama.  He is a man ‘for the people’–promising to build proper hospitals and schools so that everyone can live decent lives.  In the end, however, Willie falls prey to the very thing that caused him to run in the first place.  His greed and hunt for power destroy everything that he once valued including family, truth, and nobility.  Furthermore his influence brings down everyone surrounding and supporting him as well.

I recently had a friend arrested and taken to the Cache County Jail for an unpaid fix-it ticket.  He had called the clerk’s office earlier that day to assure them he would be in the next day to pay it.  The police officer was doing his duty–a duty and power that WE gave him–to get such a dangerous criminal off the streets to protect us and other citizens of Cache Valley.

I think Animal Farm brings up a central question about the power we give politicians as well.  We want our elected officials to do good–to keep our cities clean and free of violence.  But at what cost?  How much are we willing to give up in order to allow others to decide what is ‘good’ for everyone, and furthermore allowing them to decide the path to take to achieve those ends.

Heather

I am self-interested, and proud of it!

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Andrew Barnard-

The tendency of power to corrupt is a common thread of human history.  When given control over any number of people, we often fall victim to “power rushes” where the ability to dictate our own wishes overcomes us.    Whether it be a club president, the current principal of Logan High, or the President of The United States, power is is a universal force which must be consciously and continuously tempered.

The animals of Manor Farm revolted against what they perceived as oppressive control at the hands of Farmer Jones, but soon, step by step fell under the same control at the hands of pigs.  This led to the oft expressed justification that at least they were oppressed by their own kind.

Such is a common refrain, especially in the current debates over the balance of security vs civil liberties.  Sure the Patriot Act may pose a larger and more realistic threat to our individual freedom than Al Qaeda ever could, but we should trust the government cause they are of course our fellow Americans.

The architects of the American Government recognized this problem, and saw the best way to fight ambition is with ambition.  This is also the logic and the one of the strengths of the free market.  Monopolies are typically thought to be the biggest complication to free-market capitalism.  It is a problem which Smith foresaw and on which he provided some insight.  The fact seems to be, that no matter how powerful a monopoly appears to be, they are still vulnerable to competition.  Monopoly often breeds complacency which over time will fall victim to the efficiency demanded by the free market.

Indeed then, whether in politics or the marketplace the best way to fight the corruption inherent in power is with competition.  In politics and the economy, for freedom and progress to prevail, competition must be facilitated.  All life, men, animals, and plants are naturally self-interested; this fact must not be seen as some sort of condemnation but rather acknowledged as the driving force behind evolution, adaptation, and progression.  Either fight ambition with ambition or find a leviathan. I really don’t want a leviathan.

Competition and the Balance of Powers

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

When the animals first declared their independence from human rule, they had begun to establish a society that was capable of overcoming the corruptive forces of power.  In the third chapter George Orwell states: “The animals were happy as they had never conceived it possible to be. Every mouthful of food was an acute positive pleasure, now that it was truly their own food, produced by themselves and for themselves, not doled out to them by a grudging master.”  This illustrates the positive effect of the rebellion before the sudden turn to a tyrannical rule.  Prior to Napoleon’s takeover, the animals felt that they were working together for the good of all.  As well, the animals did not fell that a “leader” was dictating their day to day activities.

This is in stark contrast to the lifestyle after Napoleon’s hostile take over of the loose democracy through his enforcing party of dogs.  Before this, it appears that the society has a two-party system similar to the democratic/republican system of our time.  This two-party system allowed the animals to hear both sides of an argument and then make a decision about how to proceed as a whole.  In order to prevent this from happening there is a necessity of multiple parties competing for a voice in government.  If one party manages to obtain enough power to squash the minority opinion, then this party will begin to feel the corrupting forces of power.  Essentially, competition, as in a capitalistic society, will keep any one group from gaining more power then it can safely handle.     

Political Power Ball

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”

This is not the case in all situations, but in nearly all.  For some reason, we humans think that we have ourselves figured out.  We get a great idea, receive some backing from our close friends, and BOOM, the political power ball starts rolling.  We become popular and people rally around us.  We tell ourselves that we will never let it go to our heads, that the only reason we started this whole campaign was to implement our one “virtuous” idea.  We start to realize that in order to implement our virtuous idea, we must be placed in a position of power.  Soon the idea becomes second in importance, second only to gaining the power to implement the idea.  We remain justified.

Soon we realize that we need a lot more ideas to bring in a lot more support.  We promise to DO, DO, DO once we are in office, and soon our idea gets put on the back burner.  We become consumed with winning.  We win.  We implement our idea.  Our idea works.  We gain more support, and with the support, we gain real power.  Soon we become consumed in our power and forget those who helped us gain the power.  We create elite groups in our mind and start working out of our own self-interest.  We become obsessed by our power and seek ways to gain more.  We follow a path of destruction not only for others, but for ourselves.

The only way to get out of this predicament is to put into office only the most virtuous and righteous people in society, any takers?

Jake

Outsourcing my good will

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Bryson White

Speaking of democracy, Winston Churchill declared “It is the worst system possible, except for all the others.”  As I read Animal Farm, I realized that the animals never really were well off under any system.  With the humans, they never enjoyed the fruit of their labor.  With the pigs, they were oppressed and manipulated.  Both systems stunk. 

It was only for one brief year, before Snowball and Napolean, that Animal Farm enjoyed unfettered liberty.  With no one in charge, the animals found a spontaneous order of prosperity and enjoyment.  They ate the fat of the land and slept in the shade of the trees.  However, no sooner than when a project arose for the “greater good” did all that end.  Someone came to power to accomplish this good, and the long road to serfdom began.  I wonder if this is an inevitable outcome of government programs for the “greater good.” 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love taking care of people.  And it’s important that we do things to benefit society as a whole.  But I am convinced that the “greater good” cannot be accomplished with formal power.  It has to be a grass-roots effort.  It has to be accomplished through individual choice and the exercise of liberty.  It must be a private sector initiative; otherwise the power will be abused.  As an example, compare the effectiveness of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation with any other government effort.  It’s when individuals decide to give back and lend a hand that things really get moving.  And herein lies the problem:  very few people take the time (or the money) to lend that hand.  We outsource our charitable contributions to the government.  We give unyielding power to a group of individuals to take care of the poor and afflicted.  I often ask myself “did we elect Mr. Obama a) to oversee the government or b) to make sure that people get healthcare and jobs and paychecks, and houses?”  It often seems that ‘b’ is the answer.