By TLB Contributor: Steve Cook.
Every facet of human enterprise or endeavor has a product – the finished thing or completed service.
To be valuable and viable, that product must in some way be wanted by someone. It will be wanted by others, and thus valued, to the degree that it is perceived to assist their survival in some way. Assistance of survival can range from ways that are very tangible such as food, shelter or transport right on through to artistic products that stimulate imagination, elevate mood or generally make life more tolerable.
The human community – that group known as “humanity”, of which every one of us is a member – comprises many thousands of groups and every group engages in some activity or other towards some end result, some product which is valuable in greater or lesser degree to the other members of society.
This applies to virtually any group and by way of a few examples (and you can correct the wording if it does not quite work) I suggest the following: • A house-painting company produces painted houses that look smart and are protected from the elements. • The product of a school is children possessed of the knowledge and skills that enable them to be an asset to, and to flourish and prosper in, the society. • The product of a police officer might be stated as an area free of crime, or the product of a doctor might be an area free of illness. • The product of a food manufacturer might be stated as safe, healthy and nutritious food. • The product of a shoe shop might be well-fitted and comfortable shoes on the feet of satisfied customers. • The product of a taxi driver could be defined perhaps as customers delivered in safety and comfort to their destination. • The product of a parent or partnership of parents might be stated as: happy, healthy, wise children who go on to become happy, healthy and wise adults. Okay, so these may not be entirely satisfactory statements of the products of various groups. Other people, particularly those involved in producing the product, might be able to work out a wording that defines it more aptly.
The point, however, is that everyone engaged in some form of production, in some activity for which they receive an exchange from others, is delivering a product.
And as an aside, if you don’t think parents receive an exchange for their own production remember that happy, healthy and wise children become tomorrow’s adults who in turn shape the environment in which we live as we ourselves grow older.
If someone cannot define their product or cannot work it out or does not think that they have one, then the chances are they are engaged in an activity that has no value so far as everybody else in concerned. What they have then is activity for its own sake with no end result.
Government is also a group of people that performs a function in the society. Yet there does not appear to be a clear, agreed definition of its product. Without the product of government being broadly agreed upon, clearly understood and considered desirable, one has no yardstick by which its members or anyone else can measure whether it is succeeding or failing.
A ball bearing factory, for example, has the product of perfectly round ball bearings or some such thing. Perfectly round ball bearings are needed and wanted by others and thus have a survival value (they enable other machines to be built that assist people in the business of survival.)
But what if the people of the ball bearing factory did not know that they were supposed to produce perfectly round ball bearings? What if they had only the hazy idea they were supposed to produce small metal objects of some kind? When flat or square ball bearings start coming off the assembly line and, being some kind of small metal object, they would not be rejected as flawed or undesirable products and would then be passed on to the consumer.
Flat or square ball bearings have no value to the consumer. They are of no use in enhancing survival. So nobody will buy them and the factory will fail and go bust as its “products” are unwanted by anyone. But what if the ball bearing factory were in a position to force others to accept and buy whatever it churned out, however shoddy, even though the “product” was useless or even detrimental to the survival of the purchaser?
In essence, that is the position of most governments. A government is a group of people. It engages in some activity or other. Its product is not clearly defined and agreed upon. It is in the unique position of being able to force other people to accept and pay for whatever it happens to turn out, even when what it turns out is detrimental to their survival.
With no clearly defined product, no agreement as to what it is supposed to produce, we wind up with a lot of activity but no-one within government or on the receiving end of it has any reliable, consistent way to measure government’s success or failure. So we have a fog of confusion that is ripe for men of criminal disposition to move in and use government for their own narrow, selfish purposes, purposes that are invariably to one degree or another detrimental to the survival of the rest of us.
Governments are just sort of “there.” They’ve been there for thousands of years. And they are still stuck in the seminal vagueness surrounding what government is for and the confusion that sprang up the first time some criminal took advantage of that vagueness to convince everybody that God said the purpose of government was to serve his own whims.
They are in the position of the ball bearing factory that has no clear concept of its product. They churn out ball-bearings that are very occasionally round, but often flat, square or pear-shaped or even misshapen blobs. They flounder around like headless chickens. They stagger from one crisis to the next. They raise taxes and so penalize production. They churn out laws in endless profusion, declare wars that everybody loses, promise one thing while doing another, lie, intimidate, and mess people about. They often do all this to the extent that citizens have to form groups to protect themselves from their own government. It takes on the aspect of an enemy rather an ally that assists their survival efforts.
Of course, the product of government could be anything we agree it should be. We could agree that the product of a government is dead citizens, obedient robots and so forth but such an agreement is unworkable for the majority of human beings who desire optimum survival: the living of long, happy and healthy lives that are fun to live.
Someone with a vested interest may consider that the product of a government is to further their own vested interest, leaving them free to do what they like with and to other human beings. This seems to be the case with many a banking cartel or multinational corporation. And if such vested interests are operating in a world where nobody – including those in government itself – have a clear idea of what government’s product is, how to decide what it should be or even that there is one, then such vested interests are able to take advantage of the confusion and foist their own notion of government on everybody else.
So governments wind up governing in the service of one or another vested interest, such as banking or drug companies. They get the idea they are supposed to keep populations “under control”, that their product is a “controlled herd” or some such thing. They work on some notion that they are supposed to just “keep themselves going.” They conceive of themselves as a group distinct from or even imposed upon the society of which they are a part and think it is perfectly reasonable to muck their fellow citizens about, line the pockets of their pals, educate the young into advanced illiteracy or preside over a decline in the standard of living of some of the richest and most productive nations in the history of the planet. And the governed, none the wiser as to what their government’s product is, tend to go on rather bemusedly supporting it, buying its justifications and excuses as its conduct degenerates and it drives civilization into chaos and ruin.
It is also interesting to note that in the absence of a clearly defined product, there can be no effective quality control and all manner of abominations can roll off the proverbial assembly line uncorrected. Without effective quality control, any enterprise will tend to slide in the direction of shoddier and shoddier products.
Where government is concerned, various citizens groups form up an attempt to exert a quality control of their own and these proliferate and often become quite agitated to the degree that government is not providing a quality control of its own product. Yet even here, such efforts can be inhibited by an absence of a broadly agreed upon and clearly defined product.
So what is government’s product? Or rather, what should it be, because the product of that group called government is whatever we agree it should be.
We could agree that the product of government is prosperous multi-national corporations, or a population that does as it is told or rich politicians or safeguarded banking interests and this might work for the CEOs of multinational corporations, banking cartels and so forth but it does not work too well for millions of the rest of us.
What we need then is to agree on a product that enhances and promotes the optimum degree of survival for all of us –including the CEOs of big corporations, where the operations of those companies enhance rather than impede our survival.
Suppose we agree that the product of government is: A safe environment in which all honest people are able to flourish and prosper free of inhibition to their survival efforts. I don’t know if the product of government has ever been stated before. If it has, I don’t think it has been broadly understood and agreed upon. But suppose we agreed that the above product is a viable and desirable one for government to work for and deliver so far as we and government are concerned.
What is the point of paying a government to work towards anything else?
To be fair to your government of course, the delivery of such a product is a considerable undertaking. Like any major product, completion of it is not necessarily going to happen overnight, although a few centuries ought to have been sufficient time for governments roll out a desirable product by now. This suggests that whatever product, if any, governments have been striving for it has not been a safe environment in which all honest people can flourish and prosper free of inhibitions to their survival.
Yet, imagine for a moment if millions of citizens agreed that this is the product they desire from their government. Imagine if the citizens working within that service known as government also agreed that this is their product. From that definition and agreement, from that easily grasped datum, one would be able to observe and assess any government’s performance and gauge its competence or incompetence, its sincerity or lack thereof.
It would be possible for us to assess whether our government is moving closer to the product or churning out ball bearing that are increasingly misshapen.
Look around. Look at your government and the product it is delivering. Is it producing an environment safer or less safe? Are you, your children, friends, neighbors and fellow human beings more able to flourish and prosper or less?
By their products, not their words, ye shall know them.
Steve Cook is the author of the sci fi spoof Genghis Kant and other works of fiction and non-fiction. His blog is at http://stevecookwriter.blogspot.co.uk His Facebook Page is at https://www.facebook.com/stephencookwriter His free satirical newspaper, The Daily Scare is at http://daily-scare.blogspot.co.uk