As someone who studies Japanese martial arts and holds a general interest in Asian philosophy, I’ve researched the origins of the strains of Buddhism that eventually migrated to Japan. This then brought me in contact with Tibetan history and the myths of Shangri-La, where a mystical harmony provided for utopian happiness among all the supposedly enlightened people there.
Digging deeper into the myths of Shangri-La revealed that, as expected, they were too good to be true. In fact, the history of Tibet reveals longstanding feuds between rival Buddhist orders, imperial aggression, and internal political intrigue. Further, punishments in Tibet
involved what most people would consider cruel and unusual. One of the early counselors to the 14th Dalai Lama had his eyes gouged out for, allegedly, planning a coup against political opponents. Common criminals could expect to have their hands or feet cut off, their Achilles tendon snipped, their skin flayed, or be subjected to other forms of torture.
While also recognizing every society has historical episodes considered barbaric and the Communist Chinese occupiers have a vested interest in spreading propaganda about how backward the Tibetans were prior to being ‘liberated’ by their the 1959 invasion, the real story of Tibet was enough to shatter any belief in a veritable ‘heaven on Earth’ called Shangri-La.
Heaven is not for this world. Even if you believe, as I do, that the universe is abundant and there is good enough to go around for everyone, it does not escape the reality of the conditions humans find themselves in. The universe may be infinitely abundant yet, at the same time, resources available for immediate use remain limited and finite.
The discreet availability of resources and goods at a given point in time and space is known in the science of political-economy as scarcity. Anyone proposing a course of action or policy must contend with the reality of scarce resources.
Consequently, even if politicians and bureaucrats embodied the most enlightened, benevolent, and compassionate intentions they would not have the practical means of satisfying everyone they are supposedly working on behalf of. This is especially true when contemplating the satisfaction of constituent desires in the sequence of time. Politicians and bureaucrats cannot satisfy everyone and even if they could the delivery would not occur all at the same time. They would, by necessity, need to economize the resources being applied toward the achievement of their security and justice tasks.
Economizing resources involves directing assets toward the achievement of a desired goal. The task of economizing remains imperative whether the goal is for an individual to satisfy their own thirst, a business looking to bring a new product to their customers, or a society looking to secure their territory from criminals and hostile invaders.
In the, supposed, pursuit of security and justice, politicians have to decide how much, of what kind, and in what sequence resources will be devoted to these relatively legitimate governmental tasks. Again, John Locke and other philosophers that informed the founders of the United States thought it natural that government officials, whether they be kings or presidents, perform the role of magistrate, to settle internal disputes, and serve as commanders to orchestrate collective defense.
However, the longer a system remains in place, the more likely it is to become ossified and insulated from the needs of the constituents they were intended to serve.
This is especially true under a permanent bureaucratic structure. One need not wonder too long about the existence of a ‘Deep State’. The longer a state exists the more layers of it are likely to grow. The older and more entrenched a state is the deeper it gets. Politicians may come and go, yet the bureaucracies remain. And the more resources they command through political means and manage through bureaucracy, the more wasteful and less idyllic conditions become.
Believing politics can solve problems and actually deliver on the promises of security, justice, and abundance is pure delusion.