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What is a totalitarian state?

In general I don’t like to comment on political developments because there is so much smoke and so much heat generated by so much media that it is counterproductive to add to it and because it is too hard to figure out what is actually going on.

Politics is political so almost everything everybody says or writes is already invested with the party spirit. It continually astonishes me to see a policy torn to shreds by the party in opposition than embraced when they take power.

This is perfectly normal and shouldn’t really be all that disturbing except for one thing. There are no limits to what our government can meddle with.

Go back to ancient Rome for a moment and think about it when it was in its dotage, in its decline, immersed in chaos. I’m thinking of that calamitous third century inaugurated by the death of Marcus Aurelius and the ascencion of that loony bin Commodus.

My favorite emperor during this era was Didius Julianus. Hollywood really ought to make a movie about this guy.

When Pertinax (I think) was overthrown or died or something, the Praetorian Guard decided they would auction off the imperial throne to the highest bidder. Idiot Juluianus, not having paid attention to what happens to the emperors, or else just wanting to be sure his name would be remembered forever (after all, who remembers who Andrew Jackson beat in the election or who took second place to Mark Spitz?), outbid everybody.

For a few months he sat in his palace eating French chocolates and North African snails while the empire melted down around him.

Then the army came in and dragged his body along the streets, disgracing and torturing the poor fool to ensure that he wouldn’t be so grasping in the future.

Meanwhile, out in the provinces, the municipalities of the empire continued to function more or less as well as ever. It wasn’t until around the reign of Theodosius in the late 4th century that the municipalities started to go bankrupt.

In other words, even when the Imperial throne was out of control, even when the senate was replaced every few generations by genocides, the administration of the empire continued to function.

And the reason it did was because every local community had leadership involved in the detailed of local administration. They simply didn’t have the technology to centralize control of everything the way we do.

Therefore, the potential for a totalitarian government did not exist for them the way it does for us. To clarify, a totalitarian government is not the same as a dictatorship, though I don’t know how the former doesn’t lead to the latter and I don’t know why a dictator would not seek totalitarian control.

Totalitarian means that every area of life comes under the control of the government.

This most obviously occurs when the state regulates religion, especially under the guise of separation of church and state. The more expansive the state is, the more restricted the church is under this philosophy. Very clever.

Over the last 100 years we have both seen countries succumb to totalitarian governments, the USSR most spectularly, and we have seen our own country move more and more in the direction of the totalitarian state.

And here’s my concern. The health care debate, such as it is, has revealed a degree of fog and confusion and imperviousness that makes intelligent discussion impossible.

I would love to imagine that one side or the other is keeping their discussions clean, but neither is. Besides, the notion that there are two sides to this discussion is ludicrous.

So what are we to do when public discussions become so clouded with misinformation and chaos that nobody can find out the truth?

Down-size. If we continue in this state, it is impossible by the nature of political life that we will not find our government vastly expanded, which means regulating and controlling more and more of our daily lives.

The municipalities have handed their powers to the states and the states to the federal governments. The family is broken.

I can foresee no future in America that is not dominated by an increasingly totalitarian government. Nor do I believe we can recover our former prosperity.

That’s why I don’t like to comment too much on political developments. But I’m thinking about this in relation to the nature of things, so I’ll have a few entries over the next few weeks.

But first, the apprenticeship begins on Monday and our schedule and our seats are filled, so things will be very busy. Maybe I’ll sneak a post or two in while it’s happening.

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