Hard to imagine, right? Government functions include making laws for lots of things we all do in our everyday lives. In democratic societies, laws are written to provide equal treatment to all people and not discriminate based on race, gender, religion, etc. Yet if this is the plan and if our leaders follow the plan, why do we have so many problems today? Throughout our history, there are endless examples of inequalities and imbalanced rights between different parts of society. Even when laws are modified, such as the way Title IX was supposed to level the playing field between men and women in sports, the laws haven’t worked to expectations; discrimination is still easily found in all parts of modern day life. In social lives, religion and sexual preferences, there are hierarchies. White heterosexual males are still at the top of government, gay individuals are not accepted as “normal” by the majority of the population, and men still run big businesses and are still the primary breadwinners. How is this possible when all of us are supposed to be considered equal, gay marriage laws have been passed, and women have been given extra opportunities to bring them even? Perhaps it’s because governments and laws can change, but people don’t change quite as easily.
It’s been said, “good people don’t need laws and bad people don’t follow them.” Could we be overdoing it on the laws, allowing more chances for bad people to not follow more laws? The answer may be that society would progress without laws. Laws “hinder people’s ability to develop their own personal sets of ethics. They don’t help people learn to respect people for the sake of respecting people.” Most of us don’t like the feeling of not being in charge of ourselves. Perhaps without authority ruling over us, without a higher political power telling us to respect inequalities, more equality would arise.
Examples of government failure can be seen throughout the history of organized governments. King Louis XVI’s rule over France gave us the legacy of fear. He himself was sentenced to death and decapitated in public. This created an environment in which revolutionaries celebrated a gruesome way of dealing with unjust leaders, which led to increasing the number of guillotines used to promote one belief or another. In Professor Mika LaVaque-Manty’s lecture “Changes. Changes.”, he brings up the concept of epistemic arrogance, or faith in human progress, which includes the power of reason, freedom to experiment, and equal opportunity. The French Revolutionaries were epistemically arrogant in thinking they had figured everything out, knew all the right answers, and how to deal with those who had different thoughts on making their society liveable. Because political change hasn’t been executed correctly, there must be faith in human progress without it. Mill argues that we should experiment with different ways to live together, which could include governing ourselves and having faith in each other.
Burke would argue that the most efficient way of shaping our future is to rely upon our past customs. It is essential to know our past to be able to improve in our future, however the things that have worked in the past may not be concurrent with modern day times. The technological advances we’ve made couldn’t have been predicted and thus modifications to rules are made because of this. Many different groups have been created as well, such as conservative and reform. Either way, we must consider the value of the rules we have and the ones we want to modify to find their significance and the impact they will have on our lives.
There is also a governing rule for all sports. Presidents, commissioners, and owners all exist for each sports team and league. Although they do make many decisions, much of the initial conversation about issues comes from those who play in those leagues.
One example comes from the November 15th University of Michigan theme semester event “Values of College Sports Conference” where various panels led discussions about different topics. Jimmy King, a member of the Fab 5, spoke about education in relation to sport. “We’re past the times of discrimination…whether it be gender or race, we’re all in this together.” We shouldn’t follow the “old values” of the past anymore because our society is changing. King discussed his view about laws and that even as a society, they don’t really make a difference as those with power break them and get away with it, as occurs in the NCAA. The business of college athletics is absurd as coaches take advantage of the system and get paid million whereas the athletes get exploited for their work. In football, rule modifications are made to fit the technology and advancement of the modern day. Speculations about kick-off rule changes have recently been made. If they followed through, would “football without kick-offs still [be] football?” Similarly, would a society without government still be a society? In my opinion, it would. People are afraid of change. Being open to voices other than your own, respecting others, and going outside of your comfort zone to consider the possibilities of improvement in our society, sports leagues and more is necessary for progress as a whole.
Can we learn to be a self-ruling people in the greater society? Do activities like sports that a large part of society participates in need individual governing bodies, or can we do it ourselves? Would there be outrage and an increase in violence if we dismissed laws and governance? I have faith in human progress and believe that the best way to overcome any of the problems we have today is to experiment with our ways of living, like Burke, whether it be minimizing government rule, increasing it, or having an in between. One thing is for sure though, when experimenting we must consider and learn from what we have done in our past when making new decisions for our futures so that we don’t make the same mistake twice. Political knowledge is gained by considering what has been done before us. Perhaps we’ve been through enough change to start something new. As Burke believes, the future is unpredictable. Therefore, we must try out different things, like governing ourselves.