Socialism Corrupts and Absolute Socialism Corrupts Absolutely

There is a scene in one of Leo Frankowski’s Cross-Time Engineer series in which his main character – a time-displaced engineer trying to prepare Poland for the Mongol onslaught – comes across a rampaging Mongol party and a bunch of merchants.

In this scene, the Mongols order the merchants to kneel and present necks. And then start beheading them.

Frankowski’s character intervenes and slaughters the raiding party of Mongols, saving the merchants, then asks the merchants why they obeyed the order to kneel, knowing they’d be slaughtered. “Because otherwise, they’d do something worse,” the merchants say.

I think of that scene every time I’m in Europe and dealing with the “local style” — or even here — interacting with the kind of government bureaucracy that expects us to kneel and present our necks.

By and large here it’s not advanced to the point of making us fully helpless, unless it’s in specialized areas and circumstances, like say New Orleans after Katrina.

Europe, though…

Remember this is the civilization that conquered most of the world. And yet, they will passively suffer abuse at the hands of “their betters” in the fear that if they do anything worse will befall them.

Eventually this settles into a sort of low-grade malaise, the feeling that you can’t do anything on your own without the help and direction of those “who know.”

I’m used to this in Portugal, where half of my – admittedly often impatient – suggestions to deal with this or that get met with “It’s not how it’s done” or “you can’t take it in your own hands” or “but the experts say.”

For instance, last time I was there I found that instead of upgrading the outdated electrical supply to the village, a supply so inadequate that it gifted us with brownouts every summer in a society with no air-conditioning or heating in most houses (so presumably the electrical supply crashed because it was warmer and people stayed up later with lamps on) the authorities were going house to house and changing the electrical board. Changing? Oh, no, limiting how much electricity you could get. In my parents’ house we quickly found out we could short the entire board by turning on a fan while mom was ironing. Or causing the electrical water heater to go on while we had more than two lamps on.

I’m not exactly sure what that kind of limiter on electrical usage would do in the U.S. Oh, sure, you’d get half a dozen people who’d go along with it. Most of my fans – you know who you are – would pretend to go along with it, and then defeat the limitations in various ways. And a not inconsiderable number of people would be up in arms, and possibly very short of literally up in arms. In Portugal, this was met with “we have to do it to prevent global warming.”