I have this T-shirt, I got it recently, that says:
FAITH in GOVERNMENT
HISTORY and REASON
But that’s not the Quote of the Day. This is:
The administration has admitted to spying on everybody, including the press; collecting every bit of communications and personal data it can, including credit ratings, purchases, and browsing history. Nowhere have they said Congress is exempt. Verizon was the first phone company where it was admitted that everything they touch goes to the NSA. Upon taking office, every member of the House and Senate is handed a Blackberry to do everything on. Who has the contract for the Congressional Blackberries? Verizon.
Since this started in 2009, one has to assume that every member of Congress regardless of party has been compromised, or has family that has been compromised; and is being blackmailed, extorted, or bribed in some form or combination, and is under the control of the administration. This explanation is the Occam’s Razor for why the Congress, the Republican Caucus in particular, has been so passive and refused to fight back against Obama.
There are implications for the future of the country.
Indeed there are. And they’re not pretty.
I’m most of the way through reading the book Why Nations Fail. The overarching theme, it seems to me, is the same one put forth by Adam Smith, F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell, among others – human nature doesn’t change. Added to that is Robert Heinlein’s observation:
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.”
Prosperity – a good marker for societal success – follows liberty. Though it is far from the sole condition necessary for prosperity, liberty is an essential condition. But liberty is quite rare, difficult to win, and apparently impossible to maintain for extended periods. In contrast to the Declaration of Independence, throughout history governments have been instituted among men almost exclusively not to secure the rights endowed upon them by their creators, but instead to secure the power and privilege of the powerful and privileged. Because human nature is what it is, who it is that has power and privilege may change over time, but the function of government remains, with few exceptions, to protect that power and privilege – regardless of who holds it.
Liberty endangers the power and privilege of those currently holding it. The authors of Why Nations Fail point out repeatedly that governments – again, almost without exception – tend to do whatever they can to prevent economic “creative destruction,” because with it comes shifts in who holds economic, and thus political power.
Liberty is dangerous, and it is most dangerous to the powerful and privileged. I am once again reminded of something I’ve quoted repeatedly from a post by blogger Ironbear several years ago:
It would be a mistake to paint the conflict exclusively in terms of “cultural war,” or Democrats vs Republicans, or even Left vs Right. Neither Democrats/Leftists or Republicans shy away from statism… the arguments there are merely over degree of statism, uses to which statism will be put – and over who’ll hold the reins. It’s the thought that they may not be left in a position to hold the reins that drives the Democrat-Left stark raving.
This is a conflict of ideologies…
The heart of the conflict is between those to whom personal liberty is important, and those to whom liberty is not only inconsequential, but to whom personal liberty is a deadly threat.
At the moment, that contingent is embodied most virulently by the “American” Left. This is the movement that still sees the enslavement and “re-education” of hundreds of thousands in South Vietnam, and the bones of millions used as fertilizer in Cambodia as a victory. This is the movement that sees suicide bombers as Minute Men, and sees the removal of a brutal murder and rape machine from power as totalitarianism. This is the movement that sees legitimately losing an election as the imposition of a police state. This is the movement that believes in seizing private property as “common good”. That celebrates Che Guevara as a hero. The movement who’s highest representatives talk blithely about taking away your money and limiting your access to your own homestead for your own good. The movement of disarmament.
The movement of the boot across the throat.
Think about it. When was the last time that you were able to engage in anything that resembled a discussion with someone of the Leftist persuasion? Were able to have an argument that was based on the premise that one of you was wrong, rather than being painted as Evil just because you disagreed?
The Left has painted itself into a rhetorical and logical corner, and unfortunately, they have no logic that might act as a paint thinner. It’s not possible for them to compromise with those that they’ve managed to conflate with the most venal of malevolence, with those whom they’re convinced disagree not because of different opinions but because of stupidity and evil, with those who’s core values are diametrically opposed to what the Left has embraced. There can be no real discourse, no real discussion. There’s no common ground. There can be no reconciliation there – the Left has nothing to offer that any adherent of freedom wants. The only way they can achieve their venue is from a position of political ascendancy where it can be imposed by force or inveigled by guile.
And all adherents of freedom have far too many decades of historical precedent demonstrating exactly where that Leftward road leads – to the ovens of Dachau.
But it’s not just the Left. BOTH sides currently in power are threatened by personal liberty. Creative destruction threatens them. The Left calls itself “progressive,” but as was noted a while back, they’re not – they’re the very definition of conservative, because they’re trying to conserve their power and privilege. They do that by building a class dependent upon government, a class that will keep reelecting them to ensure their gravy train doesn’t stop. The only thing they want to change is the size of that dependent class to further guarantee their power and privilege. And the GOP? They want to conserve their power, too, but they’ve earned the sobriquet of “the Stupid Party.”
Steven Den Beste wrote an excellent essay on the topic back in 2002, Liberal Conservatism, in which he put it this way:
I am a humanist. I am a liberal, in the classic sense of the term, meaning that I think that the goal of a political system should be to liberate the individuals within it to have as much ability to make decisions about their own lives as is practical, with as little interference by other citizens or the mechanisms of the state. I strongly believe in diversity at every level: diversity of opinions, diversity of political beliefs, diversity of lifestyles. When in doubt, permit it unless it is clearly a danger to the survival of the state or threatens the health and wellbeing of those within the state.
Which, in 2003 in the United States, makes me a “conservative”, at least in the reckoning of self-anointed “Liberals” in this nation.
But what it really makes him is a libertarian.
What threatens the power of the established classes?
Personal liberty. Private property. Rule of law. The things the Constitution was originally written to defend. Why? Because these things mean change, change that cannot be controlled, and change threatens the status quo.
Rand Paul frightens the hell out of both sides. So does the Tea Party.
Perennial gadfly Markadelphia has, in repeated comments here, decried the fact that more and more of the wealth of this nation is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. He is right to notice that and raise objection. However, his “solution” is to use government force to take that wealth (“make the rich pay their fair share”) and redistribute it according to, I suppose, some wise plan conceived by our betters in Washington. Markadelphia has an overweening faith in government.
What that concentration of wealth indicates to people like me, on the other hand, is what is known as “regulatory capture” and “crony capitalism.” Government is seen by us as unlikely to be a solution, because it is part of the problem. In point of fact, people like me don’t see “solutions” – we see trade-offs. Whatever we do will have consequences over and above what might have been intended. We recognize that fact, and are concerned with minimizing such consequences. The Left seems oblivious to negative outcomes. Intention it seems, is more important than result.
For our skepticism, we are accused of “hating the government,” and being “insurrectionists.” I’ve been up front ever since I started this blog that if I thought a revolution would fix anything I’d be on the front lines pulling a trigger. But I, like the majority of people on my side of the fence, understand that Ambrose Bierce was right:
Revolution, n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment.
The authors of Why Nations Fail illustrate this truism repeatedly. The number of times in recorded history where revolution has resulted in an improvement in conditions for the common man can be counted on one hand with fingers left over. We don’t have guns so we can revolt against the government, we have guns to make the government think twice about what it can do to us. Robert Averech put it well:
Liberty is too messy, too chaotic for the forces of the Democrat party. They yearn for conformity, for a uniform sameness that gives the illusion of a serenely content society. That’s why they want to get rid of cars and shove us all into railroad cars. Socialists just love cattle cars; they just relabel them high-speed rail.
That’s why Democrats want to get rid of the Second Amendment. An armed citizenry can resist an unjust government.
Not revolution, what we want is a restoration of government to its original mandate – the protection of the rights of individuals. The problem is, over two-and-a-quarter centuries of entropy has made the majority of the population of this nation unwilling, if not unable to accept that the government shouldn’t stand in loco parentis.
Take, for example, this Facebook post I came across the other day:
NEW MEME I’M WORKING ON
Here’s the first draft. Interested in feedback for revisions, additions or deletions:
We, the human beings on Plant Earth are endowed with certain inalienable rights. We receive these from our Creator and/or the intrinsic sense of justice that dwells in all people of good conscience.
We are entitled to:
• Freedom of Speech
• Freedom of Worship and the Freedom from Worship
• Freedom from Want
• Freedom from Fear
• Access to Health Care
• Clean Air
• Clean Water
• Freedom from Economic and Sexual Exploitation
• Justice and Transparency in Financial Transactions
• A Living Wage
• Democratic Governance; Free and Fair Elections
• Equal Justice, Due Process, and the Rule of Law
• Public Education
• Public Libraries
• Public Parks
• Public Roadways
• Collective Bargaining
• Just Distribution of the Tax Burdens of Individuals and Corporations
I’ve already taken on the “freedom from fear” meme, but I could make a career out of fisking this list. Hell, the nine posts on the left sidebar under the banner The “Rights” Discussion do a pretty good job of demolishing it, but there are a LOT of people out there who would read this list and
nod their heads sagely headbang while throwing up “hang loose” and peace sign hand gestures.
Here’s the author’s profile picture:
Yup, another unreformed 60’s hippie. According to his “about me” page, he taught English as a Second Language from 1981 through 2007, he currently lives in Washington, D.C. and he is an “Aggressive Progressive.” Quelle surprise! Gee, I wonder if he’s read Paulo Friere’s Critical Pedagogy.
This is, quite literally, what we’re up against. People like this are every bit as activist as NRA members, and I’d venture to guess there are MORE of them (since they have infested the public school systems and taught our kids for decades), albeit less focused or organized. Or rational.
A while back, Oren Litwin, aka “Critical Mastiff” when he comments here, said this:
If the non-socialist end of the political spectrum cannot create a political philosophy that is both good theory and emotionally appealing, we’re doomed.
Any political philosophy that is not self-reinforcing is by definition not the best political philosophy. Libertarianism (with a small “l”) features a stoic acceptance of individual risk (i.e. the lack of government intervention) for the sake of long-term freedom and prosperity–yet takes no measures to ensure that the society educates its young to maintain that acceptance of risk. The equilibrium, if it ever exists in the first place, is unstable and will collapse.
This aside from the fact that libertarianism is emotionally cold and unfulfilling to most people, who have not trained themselves to consider lack of outside restraint to be worth cherishing.
Bill Whittle has described the Left’s “emotionally appealing” political philosophy thus:
I think he’s on to something there. But what about a good “emotionally appealing” alternative? Orin says Libertarianism is “cold and unfulfilling to most people,” (or downright frightening some), but that’s a marketing thing, I think. Bill Whittle has something to say on that subject, too. Here’s the first part:
I have a major quibble with Bill on this, though. “Leave Me Alone” is not the position of the Republican Party. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are shot through with people who very much DO want to tell people what to do. It seems that wanting to tell people what to do is a primary requirement for wanting to run for public office. “Leave Me Alone” is a libertarian position. Heinlein wrote in his 1966 Hugo and Nebula winning novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:
Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws — always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up.
Andrew Klavan just the other day echoed the thought:
If I could reach into the heart of humankind and pluck one flaw from its unknowable depths, it would be our seemingly irresistible desire to tell one another what to do.
It seems the only response to that deep yearning, that seemingly irresistible desire, is to try to do something about limiting their ability to act on it. Heinlein also wrote in Mistress:
It may not be possible to do away with government — sometimes I think that government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small and starved and inoffensive — and can you think of a better way than by requiring the governors themselves to pay the costs of their antisocial hobby?
Now there’s a thought!
On to the second leg of the Libertarian tripod, “It’s Your Stuff”:
If you don’t believe that “six or seven out of ten” college students self-identify as socialists, consider the fact that a 2002 Columbia Law poll found
Almost two-thirds of Americans think Karl Marx’s maxim, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” was or could have been written by the framers and included in the Constitution
That’s right in the middle between six and seven out of ten for the math impaired.
Seems like things haven’t changed much in the last decade.
On to part three – “Don’t be a Jerk”:
But they’re not conservatives – they’re libertarians. And they’re not represented by either side currently in power.
And they’re not likely to be, either. Go back up and re-read that first quote. If in fact the Ruling Class is that firmly entrenched, then there is little hope left for those of us in Angelo Codevilla’s “country class” – those of us who are “small ‘L'” libertarians. Liberty is on life-support. The continued concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands is guaranteed, and the inevitable outcome will be a failed state and eventual societal collapse at the hands of people who live to tell others what to do.
Billy Beck calls it “The Endarkenment.” He’s been predicting it for quite a while. And it comes from “Faith in Government,” in defiance of history and reason.