The History of Government ala CfGF
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The history of government is recorded in many millions of pages. In a global sense, it is remarkably similar from age to age with periods of peacefulness where art and leisure thrive and periods of strife where dominant individuals like Genghis Khan use power to establish their point of view as the only point of view. Philosophies grow up around a particular point of view, often in the form of religions, through which groups of individuals then subject other individuals to their point of view, sometimes requiring rigid adherence to dogma even to the point of death for those not willing to accept the point of view currently in vogue. In a specific sense, the variance in detail is enormous from one government to another. For example, some comparable communities, like San Diego and Philadelphia, spend differently, by a factor of 10, for legal services in public child welfare, while achieving no discernible difference in outcomes. This is the case where ever you look in government and we hope to make it possible for people to understand the implications of such redundancy. The history of government is the record of balancing the tendency for dominant individuals to dictate how things will be with the potential for people to articulate how things might be.
There can be lively discussion about what makes us a social animal but for our purposes it is adequate to acknowledge that we are and that government is one of the central threads that gives definition to our socialness. As soon as families decided to band together with other families, the notion of community was born. The “talking stick”, as far as we can tell, is the essence of community. Right from the get go, it was clear that a community cannot always depend on one individual to have the best plan of action for the community as a whole. It was necessary to listen and hear different points of view before deciding on a course of action. The talking stick was invented to serve this purpose and it was soon thereafter that the value of the elders of the clan was recognized in the form of their being able to articulate a plan of action, based on their life experiences, in a way that the group could understand and agree to. From these humble beginnings we continue to struggle to hear each other and make best use of our resources to articulate what the community should or should not do. One might say that, here in the USA, the Congressional Record is the minutes of both the talking stick and the actions that grow out of those deliberations.
Generally what we all want from government is a safe place to raise up our children and some tolerance for our individuality. Government is the vehicle through which societal resources are accessed with most of us sharing a portion of our time, in the form of a job, for a share of the available resources. Government is also the vehicle through which some balance is maintained between individual needs and individual wants. History informs us that the community is healthiest when there is greater rather than lesser equity in the distribution of resources and when people feel good about the contribution they make in return for their share. History also informs that the community does best when the individual is valued and only judged in accordance with the same standards that all individuals are judged. History also informs that human nature is such that some people will try to get more than their share of the societal resources while contributing less for the effort. The larger the governmental unit is, the more critical it is that government maintain the many balances between these competing forces. In a clan of 150 souls or so it is pretty difficult to conceal that Johnny has more than a reasonable share of the coconuts. Very little social control needs to be institutionalized at the clan level.
We now live in a global community and for the first time in history we have the capacity to state, with some certainty, the impact of our joint actions. We have the potential to guide those joint actions differently and the Center encourages us to explore all options as we seek to do that.