“Scene at the Signing of the Constitution” by Howard Chandler Christy (1940)
In the preamble to The Constitution of the United States of America, the reasons for establishing the document are set forth. One of those reasons is “to form a more perfect Union.”
This particular justification is often subordinate to those lofty ideals of insuring “domestic Tranquility” or promoting “the general Welfare.” However, as the Constitution indicates in the Preamble, “We the people of the United States” want to do all these things “in Order to form a more perfect Union.”
It seems that “a more perfect Union” was a very important purpose of our Constitution. Contrast that with more recent political efforts; those activities we’ve seen in the last 100 years.
In the decade from 1935 to 1945, German citizens worked to form “a more perfect race.” Those efforts to achieve a Master Race for Germany didn’t work out well for a large group of people.
In 21st century America, we are working to form “a more perfect society.” It seems that the current generation of Americans is less concerned with forming perfect governing systems than with forming perfect groups of people.
I think our Founders would be appalled.
Forming a more perfect system of governance has a singular benefit not shared by the other efforts: It results in a system that can be sustained in the absence of human intervention.
Contrast that with forming a more perfect society. For that purpose, we must have a group of people dedicated to the definition and adjustment of the society. We must embed a permanent group of Social Justice Warriors to ensure the perfect society is properly maintained.
Take a look at American academia. In our current academic system (at the post-secondary level) we have university administrators who dedicate themselves to setting the right mix of “diversity” in the student body. That might be a student population 60% female, 20% black male, and 20% Oriental, Hispanic, and other male students.
Those percentages would need to be tweaked from time to time, and the monitoring and administration of the system would be a full time job for the diversity experts. Deciding on the definition of perfection and maintaining it requires a lot of work!
Imagine that this college initiative becomes so successful that we need to implement those percentages in our popular institutions. Government agencies, entertainment industries, media organizations, etc. would all be encouraged (forced?) to set up employment pools that match the look of the “perfect society.” The all-encompassing need for perfection would trump any other organizational purpose.
This is a seductive goal, and dominates American culture.
The dark side of the proposition is that it fosters the requirement for a governing class of people. It would require administrators to mete out the punishments and rewards associated with achieving societal perfection. Those activities would need to be directed by an authoritarian oligarchy.
There would be no room for democratic adjustments. The systems put in place would sustain and promote the power and authority of the governing oligarchy. In fact, it might appear that the quest for a “perfect society” is simply a tool for maintaining control by the oligarchy.
Our Founders showed an elevated sense of enlightenment when they chose to seek out “a more perfect Union.” They understood that human nature is attracted to the creation of societal perfection, and the unintended consequences can be dire.
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