Trust the people, not the politicians

“Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last one of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.” ~ Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1824. ME 16:73

Thomas Jefferson is simply saying that some people want to live by the “political means” of extracting wealth and making a living from others via the force and fraud of government, while others want to use the “economic means” of creating wealth and services for others and thereby living as voluntary, cooperating adults in society. Will you pick the “Throne and Alter” to rule over you or will you pick voluntary cooperation? That is the eternal question, is it not?

Thomas Jefferson also observed:

“Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.” ~ Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801. ME 3:320

This is the observation that first struck me as one of the basic paradoxes of governance back decades ago when we talked that over in high school history class. Who watches the watchers? Who guards the guards? Who judges the judges? Who controls the controllers? In other words, it can not be that we need government because man is not an angel since we would, by that logic, need angels to rule over us — and they are in terribly short supply as of late.

The only answer to the problem of government is to not play that game. Don’t choose rulers as there are no men who are immune from the fact of human nature that power corrupts and that power will be abused. I am not being Utopian here, I am being practical. It is far better to have no great collection of armed thugs claiming the only legitimate right to use force within a given territory and instead to rely upon the spontaneous society that is generated by human cooperation. Unfortunately we can not just flip a switch and have anarchy reign, so we will have to work within whatever system we find ourselves and hope to find some way to move the game ever closer to freedom and liberty from were we are now. Looks bleak, don’t it?

Ron Paul moved the youth of America toward accepting that freedom and liberty was a far greater gift than any empty promises from the government. He did this better than any other man in my lifetime. He did this through having a platform to speak from, having great knowledge of the issues and their solutions, and consistently speaking from the heart. While the message of Ron Paul was that of the Classic Liberal, he has helped millions find anarchism. Anarchists are just people who believe in the free market without a violent, coercive ruler called government.

As the world comes unglued with the collapsing financial system, protests, riots, revolutions across the globe, and other signs of collapse we see our present crony-capitalist (fascist) system is coming unglued.  Perhaps the end of democracy and the nation-state as we know it is also coming to an end. One can hope. We do know that thanks to a mostly free, empowering Internet that people around the world are awakening to an understanding of what a corrupt, enslaving system we live under.  Many are discovering anarchy, libertarianism, free-markets, and/or voluntarism.

Free-market capitalism is a network of free and voluntary exchanges in which producers work, produce, and exchange their products for the products of others through prices voluntarily arrived at. State capitalism consists of one or more groups making use of the coercive apparatus of the government… for themselves by expropriating the production of others by force and violence.

— Murray N. Rothbard, The Logic of Action (1997)

It is the right time in history for people to trust each other and not politicians or ruling systems. Politics is the culture of death and destruction; while free-market anarchism is the engine of peaceful society. If you are so inclined, now would be a good time for a prayer for world sanity; for peace in the world. That will come when we have universal freedom and liberty.

A citizen looks at government secrecy

Today I want to make just a few observations about our American government and its overwhelming drive to make everything it does a secret.

It is a given that anytime people are given power they will tend to abuse it. The more power people are given the more they will be corrupted and abuse the power. This is wisdom of the ages and applies to everyone from local government to national government. It does not matter a whit what party they are in: this is a universal aspect of human nature — unchanging.

It is also a given that politicians have an inclination to lie. The administration of Bush the younger lied us into war against Iraq even as any curious adult could see that there was no WMD there or any need to fear Iraq. The country of Iraq had not attacked us, had not threatened to invade our shores, nor did they have the least ability to do so had they wanted to do so. The same is now happening with Iran as the politicians ignore CIA assessments and international bodies and claim Iran will soon have a bomb and blow up both Israel and Disney World. Lying by American politicians has become so pervasive, it is the rule rather than the exception. It is best to never believe a politician on anything unless you have real proof of what he says. I would not even believe one if he said the sun was in the sky at noon unless I looked out my window first.

For the above reasons and others, one should always oppose excessive government secrecy. Common sense tells us that government is entitled to some secrecy, primarily military in time of war. Recent governments, however, have gone overboard and promiscuously classify practically any piece of paper that comes across their desk. Usually the only thing they are protecting is our own government from embarrassment or possibly criminal prosecution.

As the government becomes ever more intrusive and spies on the citizenry in ways and in scope never dreamed possible just a few years ago, the government seeks to make every act it does secret. This extends down to the local level where cops have been smashing any citizen cameras that take images of them engaged in public duties and actions.

How to deal with all this is problematic. Work against any expansion of governmental powers on any front but especially on the surveillance front. Support in any way you can “whistle-blowers” who tell us of governmental misdeeds and failures.  Try to support an open and Classically Liberal society as we await that glorious day when our brothers and sisters can drop their childish need for armed goons to rule them and join we anarchists in a belief that voluntary cooperation is the route to the most human happiness.

A few Basic Premises

“All government, in its essence, is organized exploitation, and in virtually all of its existing forms it is the implacable enemy of every industrious and well-disposed man.” ~ H.L. Mencken

A fellow, Charley Reese, who wrote for the newspaper in my town for years (he is no longer with us) once gave some of his basic premises that informed his view of the world and hence his journalism. He was a conservative in many ways but in many ways he did not exactly fit the conservative mold. His words on his basic premises:

What follows are a few of the basic premises on which I base my thinking. You might or might not agree with them, but may I suggest that you make a list of your own basic premises. It will help you clarify your thinking.

1) Government is inherently incompetent, and no matter what task it is assigned, it will do it in the most expensive and inefficient way possible.

2) The American government is corrupt from top to bottom.

3) If you rely on the mass media to inform you about your community, state and nation, you will, with rare exceptions, be woefully ignorant of what is really going on.

4) The universal franchise is a bad idea. The notion that the destiny of the nation should be put in the hands of ignoramuses, parasites, boobs, party hacks and idiots is absurd on its face.

5) Public education in America is a failure and is so flawed it cannot be reformed.

6) Not much has changed in the past 5,000 years of human history.

All of that might sound cynical, but it really isn’t. True conservatives have argued for years that government, even a benign one, is like a clumsy, retarded giant, and therefore you have to be careful to limit what tasks you assign it.

That list is not a bad one for a journalist or even for an American conservative. I have always had an internal list that not all that different from the list that Mr. Reese used in his writing career. My list starts with the non-aggression principle and hence my view of government is far darker and even more critical/cynical than the above list. But for the sake of discussion with your friends who still believe in the “political process” the above list is a good point to start discussions.

Number one and two in the list go together and finding examples of waste, fraud, corruption, bribery, favoritism, and outright stupidity in government is child’s play. That should be a middle school research project in every school. Item number three in his list about the sorry state of the main stream media is also obvious. Most people I know use alternate news sites on the net to counter the big corporate news organizations.

The universal franchise is indeed a bad idea as many people vote who have no real clue what the issues or where the candidates really stand. Of course, I am not a fan of democracy anyway so keep that in mind, but “public opinion” is often manipulated by powerful propaganda forces and the fact the public schools (#5) are a total failure makes it even worse.

The last one in Mr. Reese’s list might be controversial. Nothing much has changed in the last 5,000 years? Our technology has certainly changed and we have introduced Nation-States to dominate us, but humans and human nature remain the same. The ideas that Ludwig von Mises uses in Human Action to explain why people act as they do works for men thousands of years ago, today, tomorrow, or even a thousand years hence. Perhaps Charley should have said nothing much important has changed for human nature in thousands of years.

So what is your list of basic premises? Does it change over time as experience informs your view of the world? Do you start with the basic idea that no man or group should use aggression on any other man?

A hard question from a food mission

The government keeps the poor from working in many ways. With the government’s central planning and counter-productive interventions into the business of the so-called free citizens it keeps far more people unemployed than would happen under laissez faire policies.

I took a tour of an organization yesterday in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is a church mission that tries to feed the poor and homeless. This is a totally volunteer operation run by mostly retired folks that can donate time to keep the little operation open. They are able to serve about 400 families each month giving them food, toiletry items, and some clothing. I was with a tour group of supporters and we go visit and look around every year. (I go more often)

The head man of the operation asked a group of middle school kids a very hard question. One that no one ever gets right till they hear the answer. He explained that in Daytona there are a some events that happen like the Daytona 500 that cause the population to explode to many times its normal size for duration of the event. That leads to the nuber of people who line up for free food and items to drop. Yes, to go down. Why?

Why is it that during Speed Week, Bike Week, or the 500 the number of people who will line up on the sidewalk to wait their turn at free food goes down?

The answer given by a man who works with the poor and homeless was given after countless guesses by the kids. The answer is that during these huge events there is more work to be had in town. Work for the unskilled. Work for the down and out. Work that these people can get! And they would much rather work than be fed free. They want to find work.

It is heart breaking to know that the government and its minimum wage laws, health insurance requirements, and on and on — make about 10 percent of America chronically unemployed. Ludwig von Mises pointed out nearly a century ago that a totally laissez faire market would have almost no unemployment at all. (only those who chose not to work) Think of that the next time you hear a politician claim he wants to “help” the poor or unemployed. Especially think of that as the government, the Fed, countless wars and so on make ever more of us poor and homeless.

Over Regulated Kids

Kids in the US not so long ago were much more free than today. I knew kids that went out in the woods and shot at beer cans (plinking; if I remember the terms right) without a permit or any adult around. We went swimming at places that had no lifeguards or adults at all. Things were a lot looser back then.

Can you imagine a young teen boy today trying to take a 22 rifle out for a little target practice or hunting small animals? Hell, that would get at least 7 squad cars called to the scene and they would call for back-up and a SWAT team. And the kid and parents all would be sent to a “re-education” camp or ordered to have a psychiatric examination at the very least.

Unsupervised swimming? That is everywhere forbidden. Besides parents today are unwilling to let kids do most anything other than in some organized group with adult supervision. We live in over-protected times. When I was young, the whole world seemed to work in a way where we were unsupervised, unwatched, left alone at least part of the time — summers especially. I once walked with a friend 15 miles to another town to swim in a different lake.

Back then teen boys had cars and spent endless nights driving here and there. We often just went together to get a burger or sometimes we drove a girl around and learned to talk to girls one-on-one that way. No one knew where we were at nor really cared much. We did not need supervision at all times. Sometimes you just parked with your girlfriend for a few hours in the woods.

Looking back, it was all much more free and unregulated. We could never have imagined this present era with all its militarized cops, metal detectors, permits for everything, police in the schools, and so on. We certainly could not have imagined kids getting drugged with Ritalin or Prozac for being a bit unruly in class. Kids supervised themselves to a large degree no so long ago when I was a kid. They supervised themselves to a degree anyway — much more that we see today. We learned to get along with each other and to compromise when we played “pick-up” games without adults or coaches telling everyone what to do.

So what has the over-supervision, cops everyplace, Ritalin drugged kids, organized “fun” brought us? Kids who shoot classmates to death. Kids strung out on designer drugs. Teen pregnancies in epidemic numbers. So many pathologies that one could hardly list them all. In my high school many boys had rifles in their pick-up trucks in a rifle rack which was in plain view. No one ever imagined that a boy would murder another kid. It just could not happen; our heads were in the right place.

What has gone wrong? We over-regulate our kids, don’t give them any freedom, and don’t trust them. It is not working out so well, now is it? It is time to trust freedom again: not just in raising kids, but certainly starting there.