Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The insanity of embracing failure

I wrote yesterday about the corruption and failure of foreign aid and how the atrocious nature of the system may persuade some to abandon support for it's continued existance. Well, Butler Shaffer's latest writing over at LRC, titled Failure is the Health of the State, provides a critique of my reasoning that needs to be recognized and absorbed. The essay, the title of which is a thoughtful play on the famous Randolph Bourne statement that "war is the health of the state", explores the issue of state health and how the continual failures of the state actually seem to feed it rather than fuel the fire of opposition to it. As Shafer describes it himself:
Most of us continue to sanction such statist systems because we lack the inner courage to confront our own thinking. We continue reinvesting our souls and the lives of our children in systems that define who we are to ourselves. When those systems fail, we reenergize our commitments to them, for to acknowledge the failure of the state is to admit to the inadequacy of our personal identity. If the state is a failure, we are a failure.

This is how the failure of systems with which we identify ourselves works to the benefit – rather than the demise – of such agencies. For the same reason that the police system prospers by its ineffectiveness in protecting citizens from crime, the state benefits from its foreign policy/national defense shortcomings. In each instance, most men and women are prepared to grant the state more authority and material resources in a vain effort to shore up their faith in the system.

Reading this article reminded me of Albert Einstein's definition of insanity, which he defined as "...doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."


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