"History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind." ~ Edward Gibbon
The Origins of Authoritarianism in the Democratic State
Exclusive to STR
June 8, 2007
The 1960s counter-culture comedian Lenny Bruce once speculated in one of his stand-up comedic routines on how civilization and law came into being. Bruce humorously speculated it was because people would crap anywhere they wanted when they felt the urge to defecate. Other people got tired of the smell, the flies it attracted, and stepping in it. So what did they do about it? They gathered together and assigned 'Zog the Caveman' to patrol around the common areas of the village with a big club and give a hard whacking to anyone who squatted down for a quick dump anywhere except at the designated place for pooping. And, since Zog was spending all his time watching out for unlawful pooping, how could he hunt and gather to feed himself and his family then? So the other cave people gave Zog a percentage of their kills and gathered food to compensate him for doing 'poop patrol.' And so laws, cops, and taxes were all created in one fell swoop! I don't know how much anthropological evidence Lenny Bruce had for his theory of the origin of civilization, but to me it has a strong intuitive sense of being true.
There is a guy in my village right now who is currently 'pooping all over' the peace and quiet of the rest of us and, if Bruce's speculations are true, may well result in our Village Council hiring some gun and badge-carrying modern-day Zogs to restrain him, too. Not literally pooping, but in the figurative sense of it, by disrupting the comity and property rights of his neighbors.
Mr. Poop was an appliance repairman for many years and is quite good at his craft. There are very few kitchen appliances no matter how old or of whatever discontinued or obscure brand of manufacture that he cannot repair. His problem arose when his long-time partner in the appliance repair shop business he co-owned for many years died. His deceased partner's spouse had no interest in running the business any further and wanted to retire, and so she did, and the business dissolved.
Mr. Poop is one of those productive and restless go-getters who just can't sit around and be 'retired,' even after some 40 years of work. So he started hitting the local garage sales, flea markets, moving sales and scouring the classified ads for used appliances for sale. Mr. Poop bought what he could and trucked his booty back to his garage workshop and meticulously cleaned and repaired these appliances for further use. And here is where the problem comes in. After doing this for a while, all winter actually, he now has a few dozen stoves, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and other kitchen appliances in his garage. What to do with it all? So he starts holding daily garage sales. Mr. Poop is no piker or one for half-measures, either. He promoted his sales in the local newspaper classifieds, with fliers posted on store bulletin boards, and with numerous yard signs replete with balloons attached. And just to make things go faster and better, he runs his garage sales all day long, six days a week.
Good for him, eh? Mr. Poop has a hobby that keeps him busy and gainfully employed. So why the need for Zog here? Well, it seems that Poop's garage sale business has been successful well beyond his expectations. Traffic around the neighborhood is now often brisk at times, especially in the early evening hours and on weekends. The looky-lous park their cars and trucks on the street around his house and driveway, and so the people who live on his block and immediately around it can't find a parking spot. And the noise and bother of the party-like atmosphere isn't what people appreciate when they'd rather have peace and quiet instead of the dozen people or so browsing around and haggling over Mr. Poop's garage full of appliances.
Mr. Poop's neighbors have tried to reason with him; they've suggested he limit his hours and days of operation, or perhaps even consider opening up a shop in the more commercial area of town. 'Nothing doing,' says Mr. Poop; he likes things just as they are.
So what are people to do? What Lenny Bruce suggested in his comedy routine? What they actually did was go to the Village Council with their complaints, and the council did what it does best; it made a law. Now, garage sales need a license from the Village Clerk. The license is good for two days only, costs $10, and you may only obtain one license per month. And if you fail to comply, the Village's Ordinance Enforcement Officer can issue you a ticket that comes with a $250 fine. So now, thanks in part to Mr. Poop and other people just like him, Zog has come again to our village. Civilization moves onward and upward, eh?
The political economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe wrote a very interesting book apropos this very topic entitled Democracy ' The God That Failed. Published in 2001, Professor Hoppe explains why authoritarian states are so much more stable and internally peaceful than most democracies are. To wit: The Powers-That-Be do not have to genuflect to 'The People' on every issue of the day, they don't have to scratch every itch the hoi polloi have at any given moment. The PTB know from long experience who they have to respond to and who they can safely ignore. And, as is said about martial glory, the public's irritation tends to be fleeting. Let them stew in their own juices for a while and they'll simmer down, because come next month they'll just be peeved or outraged by something else; and so it goes with them.
In a democracy however, the reverse is the case; the public's every wish must be accommodated and acted upon instantly. And so laws are passed, regulations, specifications, and instructions are published, and are continually added to. And of course Zogs must be hired and armed in order to make it all work. And there's the rub. The problems that all these rules, laws, and red tape address are minor and usually temporary; but the government-approved solution is nearly always permanent. And so the boil of public opinion reduces our natural and abundant liberty to steam which then disappears into the wind and then is gone. Permanently gone.
'Why should I agree to trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away?' ~ Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson's character in the motion picture, "The Patriot")