The March of Statism

If the currently prevailing political parties serve as an indication of the predominant views of Americans at this time in history, it can be said that modern Americans typically fall into two loosely defined ideological camps. These ideologies, as the synthesis of a number of logically independent (and inconsistent) ideas and tendencies, encompass a variety of ideas that frequently come into conflict with each other. It is from these points where the principles of an ill-constructed ideology come into conflict with each other that the state intrudes into our lives in unexpected ways and impinges on the liberties we thought protected.

Republican conservatives (and now neoconservatives) generally hold the position that government should be active outside of our borders in order to secure the liberty of those within. This position has recently been extended even further by the president, in his proclamation that "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." Furthermore, Republicans have generally regarded the state as an agent of a mostly Christian morality, and have charged it with forcefully limiting immoral behaviors among its citizens.

Standing in opposition to these principles is the Democratic Party, or the liberals (not to be confused with classical liberals). Liberals generally focus their efforts on government programs that aim to increase "equality" within society through taxation and wealth redistribution, as well as market intervention in many other forms (regulation, subsidies, etc.). Although liberals frequently claim a moral basis for their positions, they frown on the use of government in imposing Christian moral principles.

These political tendencies are largely ad hoc, and are not the logical extension of any single principle or set of consistent principles. As libertarians, we recognize that ideas of freedom must be logically consistent, and that inconsistencies in the structure of any political philosophy will undermine the realization of its goals. Naturally, the ideologies of Democrats and Republicans suffer from the logical inconsistency of their own views, and their efforts are frequently met with frustration.

Democrats, in attempting to economically reorganize society according to the long-refuted Labor Theory of Value and arbitrary Marxist constructions of "fairness" and "equality," succeed only in destroying the wealth they intended to share. Winston Churchill was correct in sarcastically noting that, "The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery."

In addition, Democratic contempt for private property leads inevitably to contempt for liberty, as the state comes to see citizens merely as means to an end of utopian equality (or worse, the goal of self-aggrandizement of an oligarchic r'gime), rather than as freely acting individuals. One need only examine the bloody histories of Soviet Russia and Communist China to see that economic servitude is totally incompatible with personal liberty.

The same contempt for humanity is on the rise in our nation, as the excesses of expanding government become more important than man or rule of law. The utter failure of socialism is well documented and rarely denied, yet many still cling to socialistic principles and support illogical, crippled, "mixed" economies. As repeatedly demonstrated by Mises, Rothbard, et al, a "mixed" economy can only tend towards socialistic decline, the destruction of prosperity, and servitude.

Republicans and neoconservatives, as opposed to Democratic liberals, begin from a perspective of relative respect for private property, but find it necessary for the state to morally mold and police the behavior of individuals. The inconsistency of this view becomes manifest as the state subtly undermines the property rights of the citizens as a means to fight "immorality," as it has in the "War on Drugs." The practice of statist plundering has now become widespread in the form of "civil forfeiture," wherein our federal government illegally seizes and auctions off billions of dollars worth of private property each year without so much as formally charging the owners with a crime.

Furthermore, the massive military apparatus conservatives thought it possible to relegate outside the state's borders inevitably comes to demand ever more of the people's wealth, and increasingly infringes on individual rights. Such is the expansive nature of power.

These political ideologies fail not only because of the falsity of their socialistic and violent premises; if one recognizes the true nature of government, their goals are revealed as contradictory and absurd as well. The state cannot be committed to control and subjugation in one sphere of life while maintaining freedom in another. Our individual liberties are fundamentally inseparable from our private property. Likewise, when murder and torture become prevalent abroad, it cannot be long until these atrocities find their way within our borders.

Republican conservatives decry liberal taxation and redistribution, while liberal Democrats denounce conservative dogmatic morality and militarism, each failing to realize that their own statist preferences merely compliment the other's. The moral statism and vast armies now lauded by neoconservatives have shown themselves time and again to tend uncontrollably towards economic enslavement. Likewise, as our government grows fat with liberal taxation and bolder with every social experiment, individual liberties come under attack. These opposite ends of the statist spectrum converge in their contempt for economic and individual freedom.

The iron law of statist action is that every action of government comes at the cost of liberty for someone, somewhere. Liberty is not granted by governments, but exercised in spite of them. Contrary to the beliefs of militarist neocons and socialist liberals, the liberty of one person cannot come about at the expense of another, nor can systematic coercion bring about prosperity or freedom.

The only way to stop the senseless, violent march of statism is to reveal the true nature of the state and revive our lost sense of skeptical mistrust regarding all government action. We must realize the contradictions inherent in these illogical political systems, and come to terms with the impossibility of ensuring freedom within these contexts. Only when government policies are limited according to the logic of human action and the inviolability of liberty will we once again see true freedom.

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Dan Olson's picture
Columns on STR: 5

Dan Olson is a student of philosophy and political science in New York City, originally from the Midwest. He is an avid reader of everything from Rothbard to Debord to Nietzsche, and his political views can be readily summed up (to steal a fellow libertarian's catch-phrase) as "anti-state, anti-war, and pro-market."