The advice in question comes not from my blogging alter-ego, but from the original Imlac of Samuel Johnson’s novel Rasselas. As the elderly sage says to the young prince in the story: “no form of government has been yet discovered, by which [oppression] can be wholly prevented. Subordination supposes power on one part and subjection on the other; and if power be in the hands of men, it will sometimes be abused. The vigilance of the supreme magistrate may do much, but much will still remain undone. He can never know all the crimes that are committed, and can seldom punish all that he knows.”
The point that Johnson is making is what James Schall, S.J., has termed the “limits of politics,” based as it is on a more empirical (Aristotelian) versus idealistic (Platonic) view of human government. If, on the other hand, you believe that evils can be radically eliminated through ideological zeal and regulation then it only makes sense to give politicians all the power they want. Raymond Aron explains the perils of this approach:
The bigger the area covered by the State, the less likely is it to be a democratic State, that is a framework for peaceful competition between relatively autonomous groups. The day when society as a whole becomes comparable to a single gigantic enterprise must surely bring an irresistible temptation for the men at the top to be totally indifferent to the approval or disapproval of the masses below.
The world of practical politics is admittedly uninspiring. But for those of us who see government as secondary to personal non-political ends—secured by a measure of order and justice—it is preferred, being far less prone to abuse than the utopian fallacies of totalitarianism and anarchy. Hoping too much from politics can be as bad as hoping for too little. The cure is worse than the disease. The only reason for placing unlimited faith in grandiose civic activities is that many people don’t place it in anything else, a point brought out further in the “Christian skepticism” of Rasselas and in Johnson’s other writings.