Checks and Balances: Absolute Anything Fails Absolutely

After some years of hashing it out, I finally understand my political position. Though I currently call myself more-or-less Libertarian, I think if I were to form my own political party, it would be called “Checks and Balances”. No, not in the sense of writing checks and balancing the budget (though I’m sure there’s some wisdom to that), but in the sense of checking headlong rushes and keeping the balance.

See, the problem is, I’m a very open-minded person. I don’t know how many issues on which I took position X, only to have someone with opinion Y come over and point out the inherent flaws in X, and the virtues of Y. Then I could see exactly what they were saying—but I also still saw the problems with Y and the great reasons I chose X in the first place.

This happened over and again, to the point that I began to realize a dismal truth: No system of government is perfect. In fact, none are even anywhere close.

Upon close and open examination, most social and political ideals work wonderfully in theory. However, none work in practice, for without fail, they rely on humans. Some rely on the justness of humans in the government. Ha. Some rely on the fairness of humans with money. Lol. Some rely on the goodness of humans en masse. Okay, enough.

In the end, these ideals are counting on human beings not exploiting the system. Not gonna happen, folks. No system is exploitation-proof.

But these ideas do have merit, and we have to be doing something—even if it’s nothing. (Yes, anarchy is another system that would work very nicely if all humans were good and kind.)

So, how to choose? I come back to Checks and Balances. It seems to me that these ideas of government can work well for a while, then they overbalance and tip over in one direction or another. Right now, my country seems to be tilting dangerously towards—

Freedom sacrificed on the altar of safety
A penchant for meddling militaristically in the business of other countries
Poorly executed socialism
Choking regulations that drag small businesses to the ground
Inanely thick bureaucracy

And so I, of the Checks and Balances party, put my back against this falling wall and shove, crying “Freedom! Non-intervention! Free markets! Simplicity!” and so on. But I see, too, the dangers of my own positions. They also can become too strong, in the hands of those inevitable system-exploiters. So if all begins to overbalance in the direction I’ve been pushing, I’ll run around to the other side, crying “Whoa now, I didn’t mean all that!” (I know this is kind of how our party system is supposed to work, but can we all agree that it’s kind of failing?)

Like running around with a broomstick balanced on your hand—back a few steps, back, back, AH, run forward, whoa, step to the side—this idea is very wobbly, to be sure. But I think if enough people would think in checks and balances, we might be able to keep such a precarious thing as a great country standing a little longer than otherwise.

Hmmm… Checks and Balances… open mindedness… awareness and recalculation… surely I can find a way to exploit that!



  1. Well thought through, dear Ink Caster. I can’t imagine, with the situation such as it is, any of our young folk wanting anything to do with the system and its flaws. I offer a cause for this rancid predicament, but leave the solution to you. The cause in my humble opinion is selfishness, pure and simple. Take away the opportunity for our politicians to garner wealth and power, and you’ve gotten halfway there.
    I propose one term limits with no campaigning. Short straw has to go to Washington and then return to his/her day job at the end of the year. Wadaya think?

    1. Indeed — that’s one way to push, and we might be brought closer to some manner of balance. But even such a system as that would be fully exploitable and corruptable, I’m sure you understand. Between the very human traits of masterful ingenuity, shortsighted stupidity, and evil, even such a plan as that would have to be watched.

  2. Thoughtful post. I agree about needing checks and balances, in systems language we call that negative feedback mechanisms. I think the system is so big, that the direct material reward for being altruistic is watered down, unlike a family or a tribe. And it’s the inherent properties in the system that makes it so that one can only survive in it with some degree of greed. This is why that so many revolutions that merely point fingers at individuals tend to just revolve back to the same problems.

    All empires fail. There are some very rare examples of Civilization being relatively sustainable (like the Kogi). I think that systems work best when the operate from the bottom up, and living beings do best when they can operate from the inside out. haha i think this one will fail too, maybe someday we will evolve. My political pholosphy is that I am the grass growing through the cracks in the pavement 🙂

    You might like John Gall’s book, The Systems Bible

    1. Yeah… our empire does seem to be falling, but, hey; draw out Sauron’s forces. Maybe Frodo can make it to Mt.Doom after all, if you know what I mean. 😉
      As for the book, I’ll look into it.

  3. We are much in accord. However, it seems to me that our “meddling militaristically in the business of other countries” does a significantly greater amount of good than harm. If I cannot have an impermeable wall around our nation (I can’t, dammit), then I believe that we must be the world’s good guys. I wish we were better at it, but we are the best.

    1. I would disagree with that on this main point, if no others: That is already a direction we are leaning far too strongly, and as a Checks and Balances girl, I push to scale it back. As stated, I might run around to the other side of this stance at some point.

      As for this specific issue, the issue of our goodness, I leave you with something insightful I read somewhere recently: One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, and vice versa.

      Whose word do we have but our own? Of course we suppose we’re the good guys. Everyone knows they’re the good guys.

      1. If you look at our follow-through, we are leaning far too weakly: we “seagull” — fly in, make a lot of … um, noise … and fly out again. If we were to see our efforts through, in Vietnam, in Somalia, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, I think we’d be i far better shape and “have to meddle” a lot less than we do now. And this doesn’t mention the places where we haven’t even tried: Libya, Darfur, the list goes on. No, I don’t think we do it too much. We do it half-assed too much, is what we do.

        And I don’t think American notions of “good” are anybody’s terrorism except the ignorant and the savage … thought I admit there’s more gray than anybody wants to plan for.

  4. “Everyone knows they’re the good guys.”

    I really don’t think that’s true at all. But even if it is, it doesn’t matter.

    1. Concerning follow-through, I think that the States might at the very least like to hold to the concept of limited war. It’s a lot easier to “follow through” on something when you have a very specific objective, and aim to cause the least damage possible to get it. Limited was seems to have proven an effective mindset even for empire-building, and it’s a subject I would like to study in greater depth.

      In fact, I think you’d like the book in which I learned about it:
      It has some interesting ideas, and I think you would even agree with a lot of them. Besides that, it’s a fascinating look at history.

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