Intentions Over Achievements

     Many a commentator has noted the Left’s preference for hawking its intentions for a proposed bill, and completely ignoring (or fan-dancing away) the consequences of the bill once it’s been signed into law. Thomas Sowell cites a number of instances of this behavior in The Vision of the Anointed, which I recommend heartily to anyone who has yet to read it.

     But wait: there’s more! What if the intentions the Left professes aren’t the ones they really harbor? What if their actual intentions differ radically from the ones they claim? What if they’re malevolent? It’s plain that they wouldn’t admit to such motives right out in front of God and everybody…even though now and then they actually do.

     The suspicion is growing – and with good reason.

     We’ve heard the Ventriloquist-Dummy-in-Chief prevaricate, obfuscate, wave evidence aside, and blame others frequently enough to be certain that something other than the well-being of the American people tops his priorities. The same goes for all of his Cabinet secretaries and deputy secretaries, and for all the more vociferous Democrats on Capitol Hill. Blue-state governors and mayors are no better at “facing the music.” It recalls to mind a piercing passage from Atlas Shrugged:

     “At first, I kept wondering how it could be possible that the educated, the cultured, the famous men of the world could make a mistake of this size and preach, as righteousness, this sort of abomination—when five minutes of thought should have told them what would happen if somebody tried to practice what they preached. Now I know that they didn’t do it by any kind of mistake. Mistakes of this size are never made innocently. If men fall for some vicious piece of insanity, when they have no way to make it work and no possible reason to explain their choice—it’s because they have a reason that they do not wish to tell.”



     There are three categories of non- or anti-public-spirited motivation to be found among members of the political Establishment:

  1. Favoritism toward particular interests or clients;
  2. Hatred of the private citizens of the country;
  3. Delight in the exercise of power.

     The first of these is a version of the profit motive. While it’s natural and acceptable in commerce, it’s not supposed to animate holders of public offices in the performance of their duties. The second, an omnidirectional malevolence, is difficult for any decent person to understand. Yet we’ve seen it in operation in other countries, which forces us to ask why it should be impossible here. I have no doubt that some, at least, of America’s political Establishment are motivated by considerations in one or the other box.

     The third is the one most difficult to grapple with. It points to a classical problem with awarding power to some to exercise over others: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

     The great irony here is that we’ve already been told that this is the primary motivation of all power-seekers:

     ’The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day, is not power over things, but over men.’ O’Brien paused, and for a moment assumed again his air of a schoolmaster questioning a promising pupil: ’How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?’
     Winston thought. ’By making him suffer,’ he said.
     ’Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.’

     Indeed once again.


     We speak of them as “public servants,” but the reality is almost diametrically the opposite. (“If there’s anything a public servant hates to do, it’s something for the public.” – Kin Hubbard) They seek power because power is what they value most. When we’re unwise enough to give them power, they exercise it to the fullest extent we permit – and in these latter days of the Republic, we permit them to get away with virtually anything.

     We’ve tried, at odd intervals, to rein them in. We’ve failed at almost every turn. Constitutionalism, the concept intended to limit a government to its delegated responsibilities, was predicated on the premise that We the People would be the restraining force: first through elections; secondarily through nullification and civil disobedience; third and last through armed revolt. And in each case we’ve failed our responsibilities. We relied upon words on paper, and refused to heed Herbert Spencer’s prescient warning: “Paper constitutions raise smiles on the faces of those who have observed their results.”

     I keep telling people: Reason backward: from tactics to strategy to objectives to motives. Do not believe the pious proclamations about “the public good.” Few have listened. None of us have acted as we should. And now they can have their way with us.

     And they do not mean well.

1 comment

    • Max Wiley on July 3, 2022 at 12:59 PM

    I firmly believe the consequences are exactly as planned, while the intentions are merely part of the sales pitch.

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