Homer Simpson and the rule of law

Continuing from yesterday on where the pathological hatred of government comes from: there’s a kind of credulousness in American life (he says with love) that’s both hopelessly naive and profoundly inspirational. We expect institutions not to seek to actively screw us over. We expect the rules to function relatively impartially. When what institutions say and what they do are in conflict, we get so upset.

Usually, this is reflected in our role as consumers – you should hear how exasperated I get about customer service on the phone sometimes. (I’m always civil to the individual rep and recognize it’s not their fault and focus on the company’s policies, but I get plenty peeved: petulant, even.) “Entitlement” is usually talked about in terms of social welfare programs, but I feel like we Americans, so many of us, feel profoundly entitled to have things work out according to the rules. And the kicker is, they do, a significant proportion of the time.

This is a remarkable state of affairs! With so little precedent in all of human history! With so little analog in the rest of the world today! You should get down on your knees and give thanks when that happens, when the rules work as they should, when you get a fair shake from institutions no matter your background or family or where you’re from. It is a remarkable, wonderful, beautiful state of affairs. It doesn’t always happen, but that it does as much as it does is incredible.

I’m reminded of Homer Simpson’s famous discourse on the pig: “Oh yeah, right, like bacon, and ham, and pork chops all come from the same animal – the same magical, wonderful animal.” And yet, Homer, such an animal does exist – it’s called the rule of law and the democratic system in the U.S. It’s fat like a pig, it’s unhealthy like a pig, you might not get the cut you really like (there’s only so much bacon), but mmm-mmm, it sure does taste good.


Tags: ,

One Response to “Homer Simpson and the rule of law”

  1. The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" » Blog Archive » Needlessly fragile equilibria (or, faith in government) Says:

    […] The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" BETA version, new title in the works. New post each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (for now). « Homer Simpson and the rule of law […]

Leave a Reply