Historical Nostalga and Subsidiarity

Brilliant post by Arturo Vasquez discussing this article.

It is fashionable to bash John Rawls, but his Veil of Ignorance concept does prevent one flaw of historical nostalgia, which is to project yourself back into a historical culture's most favorable role.  It's one thing to say "it would be really great to be a member of the polis in ancient Athens" but when you realize that you are statistically much more likely to be an Spartan doulos (or a woman, which more or less amounted to the same thing), all of the sudden 5th Century Greece loses its luster. 

My friend Jason and I once discussed which ancient culture would be the best situation for us if you kept our socio-economic status constant, and we concluded it was probably Ancient Rome circa about 150 A.D., because it had the greatest social mobility--we would not have been born into the upper class, so we would want a society where you could rise up.  Rome 150 A.D. is pretty much the polar opposite of the Greek-city state praised by Esolen.

Ultimately, pretty much any society where you are empowered to make decisions (whether individually or collectively) is going to be a better deal for you than one in which you don't.  To return to the previous post, I am 100% in favor of the Catholic monarchy if I get to be the Catholic monarch.  I am much less excited about, say, Michael Voris becoming the Catholic monarch. 

Democracy helps in that you have access to making decisions, but that only becomes real access so long as you are not a permanent minority in a particular place.  See James Madison, "The Tyranny of the Majority," The Federalist Papers.  The chances of being in a permanent minority position are much greater if all power in concentrated in the local community, because local communities are more homogeneous.  Again, see generally, The Federalist Papers re: "The Extended Republic."

I just can't relate to the visceral fear and loathing that people have for the federal government.  We deal with large, faceless bureaucratic organizations every minute of every day or our lives.  The federal bureaucracy seems to me to be tame and altruistic on balance compared to say, Comcast.  During the Health Care Reform debate, the notion of a government bureaucracy deciding on treatment was the great boogeyman.  Right now, my treatment decisions are in the hands of Blue Shield of California, a bureaucracy I did not select for myself and have no realistic opportunity to replace with someone else.  Maybe they will be fair to me if I need something, or maybe they will be awful.  But they are ultimately a faceless bureaucracy that is of the same species as the Great Satan the federal government.  I just don't see what would be categorically different if they were replaced with the Department of Health and Human Services. 

At least with HHS, I can complain to my Congressman or Senator and potentially get relief.  With Blue Shield, I have no real recourse.


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