"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Endless 'Problems' Fuel Statist Hubris
Exclusive to STR
June 27, 2007
People in power have an annoying tendency to fabricate a horde of complex, difficult, mind-wrenching "problems" that need solving. It seems that these problems are so utterly complex and nuanced that a free market society cannot solve them -- no, only overpaid, Ivy League-educated bureaucrats have the will, the know-how, and the testicular fortitude to fix up these problems. Here I am referring to issues such as immigration, the future of Social Security, Islamic terrorism, drugs, outsourcing, diet and lifestyle, and same-sex marriage.
Question: How can an organization that enforces one-size-fits-all, unyielding edicts, be properly equipped to tackle any nuanced issue with intelligence and efficiency?
Well, guess what? It's in the State's interest not to solve these problems. Indeed, politics thrives off "complex problems"; the more the better. The divergent views, heated controversy and intense frustration all feed the fires of conflict, the very heart and soul of politics.
If we take for granted that the State is a de facto monopoly on "legitimate" force, then politics is the means by which that force is channeled to get what certain people want. That's why people get so worked up over political issues at the bar, at the golf course, in class, at the Thanksgiving table, etc. The threat (or promise) of a policy enacted and upheld by the business end of a gun is a pretty solid motivating force. And, the fact of the matter is that everyone has their own interests, needs, and values; different views of the way things ought to be for them. A particular policy will affect Joe differently than it affects Jane, and not necessarily to their mutual benefit.
If we strip the political veneer off these issues and look at them from an individualist perspective, we can see that something is fishy here. Many of the "problems" politicians and various interest groups complain about are, in fact, either made up entirely, grossly exaggerated, a consequence of existing or potential government policy, or they are really problems for certain individuals and not the public at large. So let's start analyzing things from that angle.
We hear a lot about the grave "problem" of "illegal immigrants" threatening our "borders, language, and culture", but it's all a non-sequitur. First, people who blow arteries over this issue talk as if all of America is their personal property -- yet it isn't. They have no right to exclude people from property that isn't their own. Second, illegal immigration is really only a "problem" for those who want to maintain power. How are you specifically hurt by someone jumping a border fence in order to clean toilets or pick tomatoes? (If, like many, you fear Pablo Mexicano accessing the welfare benefits you pay for, then blame the welfare system that allows such things.) Third, your cultural values, worldview, way of life and chosen language are all a product of your individual mind. These can only be altered if you deliberately choose so, unless Pablo happens to possess advanced mind-control powers... In the end, "illegal" immigration is an invented problem that boils down to this: If you have the right to emigrate from Long Island to Phoenix, than Pablo has the same right to emigrate from Juarez to Houston. 'Nuff said.
The variety of problems surrounding Social Security and other welfare problems are artificial, for such programs (and their resulting problems) are created by the State in the first place. We hear much ado about financing, solvency, the retirement age, changes in benefits, the deficit, blah blah blah. These are problems only in proportion to the degree that Social Security is a just and necessary plan. Indeed, these complex issues hide a larger question: Participation in the Social Security program should, at the very least, be voluntary. The only real problem here is that people are forced into the woefully mismanaged and ineffective program, regardless of their own interests, instead of being allowed to decide for themselves.
"The terrorist threat" is overblown and statistically low, contrary to six years of Neocon propaganda. Ron Paul pointed out wisely that USGov creates its enemies by bombing the crap out of them and invading/occupying their land, and that if this practice stops, so should the terrorism cease. Problem solved. Yet people still cry out that "we are at war" and can't stop the bombing, lest we lose face and Western civilization perishes and blah blah blah. Yet war itself is what happens when Politician X and Politician Y have a problem and have to send other people to die, at other people's expense, in order to solve their problem. So let's look at it from that angle. If a chickenhawk hates and fears Muslims so much, that individual can go ahead and make war on them...on their own time, on their own dime, and without forcing anyone else to ride with them in the proverbial Humvee. Nothing could be simpler, and safer, for the rest of us sane folk.
Some politicians in the '70s looked at the hordes of hippies doing drugs and saw a great opportunity. They took the old Progressive-era idea of drug use as a moral sin, combined it with some inflated stats regarding drug use, and voila!, a new "problem" for them to try to solve. And for decades, politicos have put out propaganda about our inner cities being annihilated by a "scourge" of drugs and their violent trade; in turn, suburban voting blocs vote for them out of fear that their neighborhoods are next (too late!). But as a resident of the largest city in the country, I assure you that this "problem" is nothing but a gross exaggeration. True, some places are seedy dens of violence due to gang warfare. This is a product of the black market, which in turn is a product of the War on Drugs. What's sickening is that personal drug use is treated as a serious crime -- despite the lack of aggression against others -- instead of a health issue. Who knows how many addicts are suffering in prisons filled with violent rapists and murderers; who knows how many people are languishing in a cell right now because they sold a joint to a willing customer (they should've taken jobs with Pfizer instead!). Just as with terrorism, the policy creates the "problem" and perpetuates it further.
Outsourcing of "American" jobs is a red herring. It assumes two things, (1) that people living in the geographical area of the United States have an inherent "right" to a job, and (2) jobs are a finite rather than a fluid quantity, that we can "run out" of jobs. It's unfortunate that many people are losing their manufacturing and management jobs, but it makes more sense to blame, say, Ford's execs than the foreigner who merely accepted a job offer. And it's far more productive to attain more marketable skills and get another job in which to apply them (perhaps at Pfizer). Countless industries and jobs have gone extinct or evolved in the thousands of years of human civilization, yet the human race goes on. Protectionism is not going to stop this process, and anyone who thinks it can has been duped by yet another marketing scam promising to end this grave "problem".
Diet and Lifestyle
No, you shouldn't eat lots of junk food, smoke a pack of cigs every day, or eat lots of fatty foods, if you want to avoid wasting away prematurely. But all the same, it's your right to consume these things if you so desire. And here we come to another "problem"; that people are not eating the right things (those approved by government nutritionists) and not taking the right drugs (the ones made by Pfizer). Hence we are at the point where governments are banning restaurants from serving the wrong kind of "trans" fats. Our increasingly unhealthy diet and lifestyles are indeed an area of concern, yet the State magnifies the problem to an obscene level, to where everything you eat and drink is somehow going to kill you. Then it forces its questionable "solution" on everybody else instead of letting consumers decide what's good and bad for them. After years of government intrusion into our dietary habits, Americans are fatter than ever before. So the "problem" has no solution as long as the State is in charge of implementing solutions.
This is the king, er, queen of invented problems. Just as in any public morals issue, same-sex marriage boils down to personal lifestyles and everyone else's perceived right to say "yes" or "no". Logically, the terms of a marriage contract between two consenting individuals have no bearing upon the terms of another couple's contract; they are separate, discrete entities. So a same-sex marriage between Gerald Fitzpatrick and Patrick Fitzgerald cannot threaten a hetero marriage between I.C. Weiner and Robin Swallows. Unless, of course, same-sex marriages can magically de-stabilize civilization despite the Right's stance that marriage itself is a socially stabilizing institution... Such duplicitous horse-hockey should be a strong indicator that this "problem" is merely a figment of some people's imaginations. A contract between two consenting adults is properly their own business. The simple solution, which will result in the greatest amount of happiness and security for peoples' rights, would be (a) no marriage licenses or privileges for married couples, and (b) everyone shut up and mind their own business.
And then there's other "problems": school prayer, gun control, indecent, "kid-unfriendly" material on the Internet, companies making big profits, saving the whales, blah blah, blah. Red herrings, all. They are problems only because the government, in theory, aims to please everybody but can't.
A representative government is expected to represent everyone equally. But how can you make everybody equally happy? That's impossible! And you certainly can't keep everybody equally miserable in turn, because re-election might prove difficult. It's far easier for statists to argue over issues, perhaps come to a compromise (with the major parties, of course), and enact feel-good policies that will "combat" the perceived social ill but never really solve it. Yet there is no such thing as "public interest" or "popular will" to do so, because there exists no collective mind to foster it. There are only individual interests springing from individual minds.
Therefore, we should seek the most rational, efficient, and fair solution to the "problems" fabricated and tackled by the State; a solution that will please the maximum amount of people with the minimal amount of effort. Let people make their own decisions in line with their own chosen values and the free market. Let people negotiate and persuade others to their viewpoints. Let people develop their own lifestyles and choose whom to associate with.
Finally, let people be happy with that reality instead of trying to force others to live their way. It's not in a politician's interest to truly solve all those nasty "problems" anyway; they'd be out of work!
So the next time some power-hungry meddler starts blitzing TV shows, radio, and blogs whining about the newest horrible social ill, political catastrophe, or other "problem", stop and think about it for a minute. Determine for yourself if it's really an issue that individuals and communities could work out peacefully and rationally, or if it's just the latest marketing campaign for a pig in a suit.