"It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expence, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will." ~ Adam Smith
Exclusive to STR
June 13, 2007
'Sometimes it is difficult to escape the conviction that there is a sickness so deep in the soul of the American people that they are beyond redemption.'
-- KARL HESS
I'll be the first to admit that I'm a little slow.
I didn't successfully pull my head out of my behind and take a long, hard, sober look at the direction my country was taking until I was well into my 30s, when I realized that the real class conflict amongst Americans was not really between rich and poor, black and white, native-born and immigrant, but rather it is between the bureaucratic managers of the state and the rest of us it presumes to be its rightful subjects; between those who desire that their natural birthright to liberty be unimpeded and those who assume that the state has every right to subjugate every individual by force for the 'greater good.' It is the managerial governing class and all the privileged bootlicking sycophants connected to them against the peaceful, productive mass of human beings who simply desire their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness to be left unlegislated, unobstructed and unlooted.
What has become increasingly obvious to me is that the political class in this country has become so successful at constructing an aggressive empire abroad and a tyrannical police state at home due to the majority's willful, deliberate, consciously chosen ignorance. This ignorance breeds an almost total lack of empathy and compassion for the United State of Amerika's many victims both at home and abroad. Worse yet, it apparently inspires in many of Amerika's subjects a feeling of delight and pleasure upon hearing of the punishment of others by government authorities, so much so that they'll actually applaud and cheer it. They don't seem to stop and consider whether or not the punishment in question was actually warranted or justified on anything other than a superficially legalistic level. They don't bother to do any research of the facts on their own and think about the aggression being done to others under the pretext of protecting American society. Ignorance is bliss. All they believe is that someone has been dealt their comeuppance by Those In Authority, The Ones Who Punish, and it's about damn time.
In order for violent aggression and the initiation of force to be accepted in a society, it must be philosophically enshrined in the culture. And this is a vitally important point to keep in mind for those of us who desire to see the state, the one human institution on Earth with a legalized monopoly of the initiation of force, whither and blow away like so many fallen leaves of autumn, but I don't think it's a point that this movement of ours takes to heart often enough.
Since first delving into the literature and philosophy of libertarianism and market anarchism a few years ago, I have come across pages and volumes on the destructive economic consequences of taxation and fiat money issued by a government-managed central banking system; the costs of state-enforced corporatist privilege vs. a truly free market; the perverse consequences of legal positivism; the tragic waste and mayhem of the statist welfare/warfare system; and a great many other things pertaining to politics and economics, as is befitting a political movement. And ours certainly is a political movement'a movement to essentially abolish politics without resorting to the fraud of politics itself, but a political movement nonetheless. And as such, it is indeed quite important to educate people as to how law and economic systems could operate without a statist class bullying the rest of us in pursuit of some nebulous 'common good.'
But as important as it is to write about and discuss such issues, I still have to wonder if we really get to the heart of the matter as much as we should. In other words, are we really 'striking at the root' of statist evil?
What I'm getting at here is that for all the political and economic treatises I read, it is really quite rare to come across something that addresses what is really at the crux of the human condition that allows the continuation of the state: The widespread ignorant approval of the initiation of force, coercion, fraud and violence toward others who are not bending to the will of the majority (or of an elite and very influential minority).
Why do so many people in this country see the initiation of force as a valid means to achieve ends? Why do they choose such ignorance? What is the cause of this sickness? This, I think, is a fundamentally crucial question.
I write this not only as someone who is a firm believer in individual liberty as the highest end in and of itself, but I also write this unabashedly as an American. If the state were to vanish from America tomorrow, I would continue to see myself as an American. I wouldn't stop referring to myself as such simply because the state vanished from American soil. As far as I'm concerned, America and the parasitic institution we call the state have very little to do with each other, besides the fact that the latter acts as a cancerous tumor upon the former. I was born and bred in America , for good or ill, and for all its cultural defects and missteps over the years I maintain a natural affinity toward the country of my birth. Not the kind of affinity wrapped up in the blind nationalism of 'My country, right or wrong,' but an affinity that is for an ideal: The ideal of freedom. The ideal of a place where men and women are free to explore their potential, fulfill it the best that their commitment and ability allow, and achieve their values. This America has never really existed before, but it is the one that I cherish and for which many of us continue to strive.
Naturally, freedom cannot exist within a culture that accepts and frequently even celebrates the initiation of force'the ultimate contradiction of freedom'as a moral absolute. The U.S. state has conditioned millions of Americans to believe otherwise in order to justify its own aggressions and predations. According to the state, force and coercion can be allowed so long as its supposedly enlightened technocrats are the only people initiating it. This is a tension that is cannibalizing the American people, both materially and spiritually. But why do so many seem to accept this ideology so uncritically, and see aggression as a legitimate means to achieve ends?
The answer to this question is most likely as varied as the 300 million plus individuals who currently inhabit America . Many perhaps have so neglected constructing a sense of self--choosing instead to fill their lives responding to the stimuli of empty, short-term pleasures and moment-to-moment distractions--that they look to the state to do those things for them that they ought to be doing for themselves, but are far too insecure to even try. Others are probably so frightened by a big, complex and ever more rapidly changing world they cannot fathom that they believe only the state and its monopoly on force can protect all of us from unknown threats lurking in the darkness. Such rationalizations are essentially lazy shortcuts and ill substitutes for the real thinking required when contemplating issues of stability and security, but perhaps this is why so many choose ignorance: It seems easier in the short term. The long term consequences of lazy thinking, however, are frequently destructive.
Jefferson said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and this will probably always be the case, state or no state. Whatever the philosophy behind it, the kind of rationalism that condones and promotes the initiation of force and coercion as a proper means to ends will most likely be something we will always have to be vigilant against, requiring us to be fully armed with clear reason and a life-affirming, liberty-defending philosophy.
It is the philosophy and ideas that dominate a culture that ultimately matter. Even if we are fortunate enough to see the state finally blow away in our lifetime, it is important to remember that it will always remain so.