Thursday, February 3, 2011

Can Government Change Culture?

To continue where I left off in my last post, I need to explain why I have reservations (to put it mildly) about the claim that government can change culture. If carried out perfectly, the success of the culture will depend on the strength of the ideology. This problem is not just as simple as finding the right ideology. The execution is essential so the strength and wisdom of the leadership is also imperative. Compounding this are the internal politics within any ruling party or government and the difficulty of dealing with the complexities of the real world against the fact that no ideology is perfect. Governments are made up of people who are far from perfect. When government tries to encourage people to better themselves, you get what you often end up with are anemic chearleading campaigns, like the Participaction campaign. When hubris makes them think that they can mould people into something better, you end up with disastrous endeavours like Canada’s residential schools.
Despite the serious problems mentioned so far, the biggest problem with the idea is that it is backwards. Government is mostly a tool for culture. Of course it can sway opinion and strong leadership can inspire change. But in the end, a leader is only as strong as his connection to the will of the people. He can only reflect the favourable aspects of the culture and try to focus that energy on to a worthy goal.

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