Random thoughts on government

There are some basic premises that one should have to use to judge proposals for government action. One need not be an anarchist to see that governments often make things worse rather than better, so one needs to know why that is. Anyone who is a realist and honestly looks at the historical data could see why I agree with the following list.

Consider:

  1. Government is inherently incompetent so no matter what task you give it will likely be done in the most expensive and inefficient way possible. Often it is counter-productive.
  2. The government of any land, but especially the US, is corrupt from top to bottom. Power corrupts men and the more power a government has, the more corruption there is.
  3. It is foolhardy to rely on the mainstream media to inform you about your nation or local community. The task of the mainstream media is not to inform but rather to propagandize.
  4. Democracy is a bad idea, just as H. L. Mencken told us so often. The notion that the destiny of all the people should be in the hands of ignoramuses, idiots, party hacks, rent-seekers, and freeloaders is ridiculous.
  5. Education by the government is meant to indoctrinate the young and not to inform or enlighten.

The above is just a distillation of a lifetime of watching politicians and politics. It has often been observed that government even at its best is kind of like an ogre: slow, dumb and violent. (h/t Nunzio@Nunz112 for that one) Like any retarded and clumsy giant it is foolish to assign it any task that is important; and why give it any unimportant task either? I read sites all the time that specialize in publicizing the obvious tom-foolery, waste, and stupidity of government and they never seem to run out of material to use.

It reminds me of the definition of the term “ironic evil” which is the evil that good men do while they are trying their best to do good.  Governments don’t often have the best interests of their people as a prime concern, but even when they do they make things much worse than they need to be. Government corruption is all around us and it is the system itself that is corrupting and its coercive nature would corrupt even a saint.

i-believe-that-all-government-is-evil

Our government does not really care for “the people” rather the politicians care for certain people who funnel huge amounts of money into their pockets. When is the last time you saw your own elected representative give some “face time” to one of the working poor so that the man might tell his representative a thing or two?

What is any political campaign save a concerted effort to turn out a set of politicians who are admittedly bad and put in a set who are thought to be better. The former assumption, I believe is always sound; the latter is just as certainly false. For if experience teaches us anything at all it teaches us this: that a good politician, under democracy, is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. ~HL Mencken

As for the universal franchise, look at the people who vote. Polls done in the street tell us of the universal ignorance of the people. There are millions that can’t name a state’s capital city or tell if a quote came from the Declaration of Independence or from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.  How can people who are ignorant of politics, history and economics choose wise leaders? And if they somehow did choose wise leaders, those men and women would be corrupted after a month on the job anyway.

Public education is mass-producing ignoramuses who can not spell, punctuate or use the language correctly and who know virtually nothing about their country’s history or geography. Is this failure on the part of the schools? No, it is a feature not a bug. The state does not want a nation of intelligent, self-reliant men and women. The state wants compliant men and women who are as obedient as sheep. The state wants slaves not strong, independent men who are self reliant. Mencken observed that “the most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out… without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.”

Sometimes people holler at me and claim that I can’t prove that an anarchy would “work” even given all the examples of it working in history. OK, fine. But I think it is easy to prove that government is a mass murdering monster. For that reason alone we should be looking to kill the beast.

Why do people submit to governments?

One of the most important insights is that all political states, benign or tyrannical, exist on a foundation of popular consent. The state is a coercive, aggressive monopoly managed by a committee of armed parasites. Rothbard’s “gang of thieves writ large”. Governments are populated by the power hungry who consume looted wealth and give us war, murder, disorder, senseless regulations, and victimless criminal statutes instead of voluntary, mutual cooperation. Inevitably any government grows consuming and blocking private production and services until no production is left to deliver on the promises that politicians make. As we approach the point where the promises are impossible to fulfil more and more people will begin to see the fraud.

There is a battle shaping up in the world driven by the ever increasing failure of governments to give the populous the booty that they have promised and instead given them slavery and poverty. On one side we see the forces of archy (statism) which is political rule and authority. On the other side we see its only alternative which is anarchy; the absence of political rule. Some have said that this battle is the battle between individualism and collectivism, between liberty and the state, between freedom and slavery.

voluntary-society

There are only two sides to the question of the state; you are for it or you are against it. It does you no good to try to be in the middle and call for a “small state”. It is true that a small, weak state is better than a strong, powerful one but it is still a gang of thieves writ large. Experiment after experiment tells us that any attempt at a middle ground between archy and anarchy is doomed to failure. It is our job to educate our fellow citizens of the world to the true nature of the state; to turn them into enemies of the state and all it represents.

Roy Childs once wrote:

It is my contention that limited government is a floating abstraction which has never been concretized by anyone; that a limited government must either initiate force or cease being a government; that the very concept of limited government is an unsuccessful attempt to integrate two mutually contradictory elements: statism and voluntarism. Hence, if this can be shown, epistemological clarity and moral consistency demands the rejection of the institution of government totally, resulting in free market anarchism, or a purely voluntary society.

But in general, the people do not realize that there are only the two options. They don’t realize that there is any alternative to having a government at all. Many of our “civil liberties” friends on the left who are aware of the growing draconian nature of the American Empire want to “fix” the government not eradicate it. Why? Why do people agree to be looted and otherwise oppressed by government and its minions? It is that they do not see that there is no way to constrain the power and scope of a government and that they believe in government’s inevitability.

In the 1500s Étienne de La Boétie wrote about this central problem of political theory: Why do people consent to their own enslavement? Why do people, in all times and places, obey the commands of the government, which always constitutes a small minority of the society?

La Boétie observed:

I should like merely to understand how it happens that so many men, so many villages, so many cities, so many nations, sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power they give him; who is able to harm them only to the extent to which they have the willingness to bear with him; who could do them absolutely no injury unless they preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him. Surely a striking situation! Yet it is so common that one must grieve the more and wonder the less at the spectacle of a million men serving in wretchedness, their necks under the yoke, not constrained by a greater multitude than they…

Governments must have this mass submission to be one of consent or at least resigned acceptance rather than only fear. The government can not use fear alone as that would lead to revolt. Governments once used the Church to convince the people to believe in their rulers, but with the power of the Church on the wane for centuries now, they use ideology supplied by their willing minions in the intellectual class.

… Shall we call subjection to such a leader cowardice? … If a hundred, if a thousand endure the caprice of a single man, should we not rather say that they lack not the courage but the desire to rise against him, and that such an attitude indicates indifference rather than cowardice? When not a hundred, not a thousand men, but a hundred provinces, a thousand cities, a million men, refuse to assail a single man from whom the kindest treatment received is the infliction of serfdom and slavery, what shall we call that? Is it cowardice? … When a thousand, a million men, a thousand cities, fail to protect themselves against the domination of one man, this cannot be called cowardly, for cowardice does not sink to such a depth… What monstrous vice, then, is this which does not even deserve to be called cowardice, a vice for which no term can be found vile enough … ?

La Boétie was opposed to the tyranny of government and to the people’s consent to their own enslavement as do the radical libertarians of today. The central fact that we must teach the public is that the state, any state no matter how ruthless and despotic, rests in the long run on the consent of the majority of the public. Give up on hoping that the state schools or state funded intellectuals will divulge this insight since they are part of the parasitic class themselves. In the words of the sci-fi novel “Dune”, the sleepers must awaken.

Libertarian theorist Lysander Spooner observed:

The ostensible supporters of the Constitution, like the ostensible supporters of most other governments, are made up of three classes, viz.: 1. Knaves, a numerous and active class, who see in the government an instrument which they can use for their own aggrandizement or wealth. 2. Dupes – a large class, no doubt – each of whom, because he is allowed one voice out of millions in deciding what he may do with his own person and his own property, and because he is permitted to have the same voice in robbing, enslaving, and murdering others, that others have in robbing, enslaving, and murdering himself, is stupid enough to imagine that he is a “free man,” a “sovereign”; that this is a “free government”; “a government of equal rights,” “the best government on earth,” and such like absurdities. 3. A class who have some appreciation of the evils of government, but either do not see how to get rid of them, or do not choose to so far sacrifice their private interests as to give themselves seriously and earnestly to the work of making a change.

Some writers call the people “sheeple” or “zombies” because most people are brainwashed to love and adore their state; to love the most vicious predators and threats to society. The State and its loyal flunkies are mankind’s eternal enemy.

Our prime task is one of education. We must teach the people that that the government is the enemy. We must “deprogram” them. We must overcome the propaganda of the state that tells them that there must always be a state of some sort. We must understand that the state rests on the consent of the slaves to their enslavement and then we must teach the slaves this essential truth.

Philosophy and Education

A few days ago I happened to read a few articles that tied together to emphasize a point to me, it happens like that once in a while. I was reminded in my readings that the state is a great propaganda machine that keeps the masses confused and misinformed. Most people get their “history knowledge” from the movies! if we love liberty and truth, we must move to fight that sorry state of affairs.

I would like to share those three things that I read the other day and what they said to me.

First, I read this by a young artist:

(5)  -Philosophy and education – As a society we have all been completely betrayed by the public education system and the mainstream media.  We have been given false values, irrational principles, destructive examples and have been led completely astray to the point where it is difficult to make sense of the world, which ultimately results in unfavorable and dangerous behavior.  A good many people in the world have fallen victim to this deception, but most people snap out of it quickly when they are able to make sense of reality.  This is where philosophy and education come in, because the damage that propaganda has inflicted on our minds is actually fairly easy to reverse, and today with the internet people are now able to teach themselves any subject, any time, at any age and usually for free.  So we do have that ability to advance philosophy and have widespread education even in this world today where we are still limited by the current system and its failures.

I mulled this over and realized that he might well agree with me that the forces of liberty are winning the war of ideas. We are winning the war of ideas due to the internet. Ron Paul helped a lot, but the internet is the super highway that we use to spread our ideas. We have huge and important sites like MIses.org but we have millions of independent liberty lovers writing blogs or making tweets that teach and re-enforce the principles of liberty. We have to hope that the truth will win out if people can be exposed to it. Plus, we do have all sorts of internet based educational opportunities.

I was reminded of the quip attributed to  Mark Twain where he said that he did not let his schooling get in the way of his education. I hope a lot more people in our age do as Twain did and not let public schooling get in the way of their education. I also hope that a lot of people follow the advice of the Taoists and others when they tell us that a lot of education consists mainly in unlearning the false things we have in our head.

The same day I read the above quote by the young artists I happened to see a link in a tweet to another great internet resource for liberty, fee.org; where I read this by the always great David Gordon:

Murray Rothbard (1926–1995) based his political philosophy on a simple insight: slavery is wrong. Few, if any, would dare to challenge this obvious truth; but its implications are far reaching. It is Rothbard’s singular merit to show that rejecting slavery leads inexorably to laissez-faire capitalism, unrestricted by the slightest government interference.

If we reject slavery, then are we not saying that each person owns his own body? Just what seems immoral about slavery is that some people, the slave owners, have the right to control the bodies of those under their domination. The owners can tell the slaves what to do and force them to obey if they refuse to comply.

One might at first think that this point has little relevance to modern society. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States in 1865; surely it does not tell us very much of practical importance today to reiterate that slavery is wrong.

But are we not moving here too quickly? If the essence of slavery is forced labor for others, it is a very present reality today. When the government takes part of what you earn in taxes, it in effect forces you to labor for the state. Just as the slave does not get to keep what he produces but must surrender it to the master, so must the taxpayer give up part of what he makes to the government. One might object that someone can avoid being taxed by refusing to work, but this is hardly a viable alternative. A slave system in which slaves could refuse to work, at the cost of not being supplied with any provisions, would hardly strike us as much of an improvement over simple slavery.

And the income tax is far from the only area in which the state acts as a slave master. …

How can we compare a democracy with a system in which a master compels others to labor, regardless of what they want? In a democracy, an individual may not be able to do what he wants, but the majority of the people make the rules.Rothbard argues that this circumstance leaves the essence of slavery unchanged. In a democracy, the majority acts as the slave master. So long as the individual cannot exercise full control over his own body, he is to that extent a slave. The fact that he, along with his fellow slaves, has a share in determining what he will do still leaves him unfree. Democracy, in Rothbard’s view, is a system in which each person owns a share of everyone else. It is merely a variant of slavery. The choice cannot be evaded: one must either favor self-ownership or slavery.

In many books and countless articles, Rothbard carried out his defense of self-ownership to its full logical, if controversial, conclusion. If you own your own labor, you cannot be compelled against your will to support the state, even if it confines its activities to protecting rights—other than, of course, the rights it violates by extorting resources through taxation. Further, people in a free society are at liberty to establish competing agencies to protect themselves: they need not confine protection to a monopoly agency.

So far the self-ownership principle has been presented as an obvious truth of common sense, but Rothbard was not content to leave matters at that. In arguing for self-ownership, Rothbard relies heavily on a point of fact. Everyone is in reality in control of his own will. If I obey another, I must always make the decision to do as he wishes; and the threat of violence on his part should I follow my own course leaves the situation unchanged. I must decide whether to accede to the threat. …

Typical of Rothbard to cut to the heart of the matter. Governments are slave masters that convince their slaves that they are not slaves but that they want and need the masters to mistreat them. The rulers use all sorts of propaganda and their public schools to indoctrinate the masses to believe in the myth that governments are “good” or at least “necessary”. Rothbard did much to expand the political philosophy that it is always and everywhere illegitimate to aggress against the innocent.

ron-paul-revolution

And then on the same day I read the following quote by Hayek:

All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wisest. Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant.” ~ Friedrich A. von Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty

It is obvious that our job in this revolution is to spread truth and the ideas of liberty. We need to talk about the ethics of liberty, about political philosophy, about real economics, about morality, about our real history, and about tactics. Most of all we need to help people get interested in finding the truth themselves. There are many great writers out there writing today. There are many classics written by great minds in the past. People need to be induced to take the time to read and think — and I know that is hard in our fast paced world, but it is essential that people take time to think.

Many of my fellow citizens, educated in government schools, think that the argument for liberty is an argument against organization. They know well that our modern industrial world with 7 billion people has to have organization.  They have been deluded by the propaganda of the state. We are not arguing against organization but rather we are arguing against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization. The monopoly of the State in other words.

And why are we arguing against the monopoly on the legitimate use of force by the State? The State is nothing but force, violence, and oppression. The State in all its many forms is mankind’s biggest enemy. We have handed over power to the few who become the ruling class and that power corrupts. They grab ever more power over us and become ever more corrupt. We must break that cycle and use voluntary cooperation among humans. It is the only way to peace and prosperity.

Collective blindness

I wrote a comment on a thread at the Guardian in response to a Glenn Greenwald post and my comment was about the fact that the average man does very little deep thinking about philosophy, economics, or ethics. I pointed out that the common man relies on the academics, intellectuals, and other opinion makers to do that for him. The State uses the opinion makers to keep the populous believing that the state is either “a good thing” or at least “an inevitable thing”. The common man does little deep thinking about things; especially ethics and economics. They don’t do as Thomas Sowell tells us to do — go beyond the seen to the unseen and then even past that to the consequences. An especially wise liberty lover responded to my comment with some words of his own and wrote about collectivists in general. I liked his thoughts and so I want to share some of them with you and add a couple of my own. I hope you gain something from this.

Communists, Socialists, Fascists, and collectivists in general possess a very selective immunity to the concepts of opportunity cost and unintended consequences, thanks to over a century of being inoculated with State propaganda. Propaganda starting in the public school and reinforced by TV, movies, and so on. The “right” pays lip service to opportunity cost when it comes to entitlement welfare, while of course completely disregarding it when it comes to corporate welfare. The “left”, of course, is the near mirror-image of the “right” as they scream about corporations and love individual handouts. Both sides want the government to rob Peter to pay Paul — they just differ on who Peter and Paul are.

I’ve yet to encounter hardly a single collectivist, right or left, here, at Salon.com, or elsewhere, who will acknowledge any downside whatsoever to any government intervention they prefer. So, when I observe that Glenn’s subject here is in fact a direct and inevitable unintended consequence of allowing the State to steal the citizens’ money and dole it out to academia, the collectivist response, if there be any at all, will be either evasion or the rhetorical equivalent of “huh?”, reflecting the intellectual dishonesty and ignorance that pervades political thought and discussion today.

This ubiquitous inability or unwillingness to even recognize, and therefore consider, even first principles, is an intellectual pathogen most of us are exposed to by State schools from an early age. Since by now most parents, and even grandparents, have been infected it is now an entrenched, self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating generational phenomenon.

It makes it nigh impossible to think rationally about the ramifications of one’s ideology and inevitably leads to the us vs. them, black and white, emotion-driven mentality that the State exploits so effectively to divide, rule, rob, manipulate and enslave us.

It is horrible that as we have gained in technological progress and have “educated” so many more of our citizens with many more years of schooling, we find that most are unable to use logic to analyze our situation. Very few have any principles that they could enumerate and explain to you. If they could choke out some supposed principle you would find them in violation of it often. The basic idea of “live and let live” or the non-aggression principle would not cross the mind of most of our people even as they supposedly honour the principles of the founders of the country.

So many of our people have been bought off by the state that it will take an extraordinary effort to convince them that the state is our worst enemy. Fortunately, even with the propaganda of the government schools, the young seem to be moved by the message of liberty and freedom. They give me hope that the ideology of collectivism will be beaten.

aa_live_and_let_live

For an Optimistic Libertarianism

There are many and complex reasons for believing that the long term trend of history reflects well for libertarianism. I know many of you are thinking I have jumped the shark on that idea, but I think I can lay out a decent case. Let me give you one sweeping generalization I saw someplace as a starter today: in an age of mass affluence; economic development and individualism go hand in hand.

We need to think about the long term trends and not what mad scheme the Obama administration has dreamed up this week. Libertarians seem to be unduly pessimistic these days. This post was prompted by two fellows on Twitter who are wonderful voices for freedom and liberty; but took exception to my assertion that we are, indeed, winning the battle of ideas. I think the long-run economic and social trends favor libertarianism even as the short term trends tell us that our opponent, the State, is still strong.

One example of the long term trend that I see lies not inside the United States but outside. Consider the country China. In my youth China was 100% communist and the government impoverished the country while murdering millions upon millions of innocent citizens. Now they no longer believe in communism and central planning. They are no longer communist even if the ruling party keeps the outer form of the old government. The people have seen what individuals working for themselves can do — and so has the world.

Or consider the old USSR. It is gone. It fell apart as a result of central planning. After 70 years or so of trying to build the “New Soviet Man” the people saw that the ideology of complete government control just does not work.

Consider the ever optimistic Murray Rothbard. He started out in the 50s with very few allies and very few outlets for his writings and ideas. By the 90s he was world famous and the leader of a huge wing of radical libertarian thought. The Mises Institute promotes Rothbard as well as von Mises and their analysis of government and economics. Not only that, but many scholars have arisen to take their place and extend the libertarian philosophy.

We also have The Ron Paul Movement which will continue even though Ron Paul is retired from the House. We have the Antiwar.com, Free State Project, Zero Hedge, the Mises Institute, Laissez Faire Books, Twitter, Liberty Classroom, and a host of other important voices for liberty. But much more importantly; we have the internet and millions of diverse voices teaching each other the philosophy of liberty. We are a decentralized movement that has no one leader for the statists to destroy. We are legion.

Hans Hoppe wrote:

“…the task of supporting and keeping alive the truths of private property, freedom of contract and association and disassociation, personal responsibility, and of fighting falsehoods, lies, and the evil of statism, relativism, moral corruption, and irresponsibility can nowadays only be taken on collectively by pooling resources and supporting organizations like the Mises Institute, an independent organization dedicated to the values underlying Western civilization, uncompromising and far removed even physically from the corridors of power. Its program of scholarships, teaching, publications, and conferences is nothing less than an island of moral and intellectual decency in a sea of perversion. …”

The Austrian School is enjoying its most spectacular surge in growth in my lifetime. Ron Paul awakened many to the ideas that the Austrians have been putting forth ever since its founding by Carl Menger. Now a new generation of young people are reading Austrian economics. The economics of the Austrian school tells these young folks that government is the eternal enemy of peace, prosperity, and liberty.

murray-rothbard-enemy-state

Rothbard once told us that before the 18th century in Western Europe there existed an identifiable Old Order called the Ancien Régime. It was feudalism marked by “tyranny, exploitation, stagnation, fixed caste, and hopelessness and starvation for the bulk of the population.” The ruling classes governed by conquest and tricking the masses into believing that it was divine will that the Kings should rule and plunder. The Old Order was the great and mighty enemy of liberty and for a score of centuries it did not appear it could ever be defeated. We know better now that the classical liberal revolution triumphed in the 18th century (in the West at least). We can win again and next time we will know not to allow even the seed of old order to remain. We must pull out the idea of the old order root and branch.

We don’t face as hard a task as the original classical liberals did in the 1700s for we now know that it can be done. We have every reason to be optimistic for the long run even as we fear the brutality and horror of the short run as the dying beast can be very dangerous in its death throes.