Where"s the Outrage?


The president of the country lies and no one seems to care. They don't even care that he pokes fun at himself about the lies. He and his comrades lied before, during, and after the war, which so far has killed over 600 Americans. Impeach him? Not a chance. He'll probably get re-elected. There is no outrage because this is what we expect from government. Budgets in the trillions, debt in the trillions upon trillions. Dead soldiers, a new Greenspan bubble in the works, rising consumer prices, declining value of the dollar -- it's all part of politics, along with endless jokes, a complicit media, prevaricating politicians and the financial interests that control them. But no one worries ' the U.S. ship of state is too big to sink. It's hard to believe the country was once different ' a lot different. For most of our history Americans paid no income tax; they had no central bank devaluing their money and robbing their savings; they had no overseas wars to die in because back then our government minded its own business; they could ingest whatever they wanted because their bodies belonged to them; they were not forced to pay into a Ponzi scheme sold to them as a retirement fund. Taxes were low, prosperity was real. Citizens of France admired America so much they raised money to give us the Statue of Liberty. As we moved into the 20th century there was a growing feeling that some people made too much money and government ought to do something about it. And some established businessmen were complaining about the horrors of unrestricted competition and thought government should restrict it -- in the public interest, of course. Socialists and conservatives found unity in their mutual hatred of the market. During a regressive period euphemistically called the Progressive Era, a coalition of private individuals -- intellectuals, businessmen, and big bankers -- joined with politicians to reshape the political landscape. In 1913 they realized their dream with the income tax and the creation of a central bank called the Federal Reserve System, both grossly unconstitutional. They thereby established the two pillars of big government and heralded the start of an anti-American revolution. We can trace the decline of the dollar, the vast increase in our tax burden, the ballooning of the national debt, the endless parade of costly welfare schemes, and our chronic involvement in overseas conflicts to the confiscatory legislation of 1913. Roosevelt's fascist New Deal was the consummation of the 1913 revolution. Of the countless Roosevelt transgressions, two in particular were critical for funding war and welfare: repudiation of the domestic gold standard in 1933 and passage of the withholding tax in 1943. Withholding lets government get away with stealing more money without taxpayer protest, because it's money people never get and it's seized piecemeal rather than all at once. Going off the gold standard domestically removed a huge check on the central bank's tendency to inflate, since dollars were no longer redeemable in gold. Complete abandonment of the gold standard came on August 15, 1971 when Nixon stopped exchanging gold for foreigners' dollars, making our money a pure fiat currency. With gold brushed aside as a 'barbarous relic,' our monetary system is now at the mercy of politically-dependent central bankers. The government today seems like a machine that runs on its own. It taxes, inflates, carries on shooting wars overseas, and sinks billions into social black holes at home. Its politicians ensure none of this will be interrupted. Yet, it doesn't have to be this way. Our Founders gave us some important lessons, even if they were sometimes flawed: 1. They believed in limited government. Keep it small and it will never become our master. But it has. The Constitution was sufficiently vague to allow inroads into freedom. But that wasn't the real problem. Any government, regardless of its legal restrictions, will grow in size. When emergencies strike, growth accelerates. [1] Eventually constitutions become dead letters, and tyranny takes over under the rubric of 'New Deal' or 'Great Society' or 'Iraqi Freedom.' 2. The Founders understood that the state is the enemy of peace and prosperity. But as noted above, they believed some government was necessary. The more government we have, the less of our money we keep. Since government is inherently wasteful, big government tends to impoverish us. And big government is always looking for fights to pick, to keep the people patriotic. 3. Change, whether for better or worse, is brought about by a few individuals. The men who started the Revolution ' James Otis, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry ' were enemies of the state. Through their powers of persuasion, they recruited others. After we won our independence a mostly different group took over, convincing the country of a need for a stronger government. We see a similar situation today with the neocons. They've got the country embroiled in military crusades around the world and massive spending fiascos at home. They are not a majority, but they've got the majority following them. A different minority could take us in a better direction. What to do? Here are two recommendations: 1. Keep away from the polls. Elections are the state's source of legitimacy. If conscientious nonvoters can get organized and form a 'party,' [2] or at least be heard, their position will be seen as a protest. Otherwise, their lack of participation will be lumped with nonvoters who simply don't care. 2. Keep reminding people the state is founded on force and compliance rather than persuasion and choice. Do you like to be told what to do? Most people don't. If they can see the state as organized crime masquerading as your friendly representatives, they may start to realize their votes are simply the means of blessing crooks and killers. References 1. For readings on a voluntary society, see articles posted on The Voluntaryist. Also see Crisis and Leviathan by Robert Higgs. 2. 'Slackers, Arise! Support the Anti-Party'

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Columns on STR: 71

George F. Smith is the author of The Flight of The Barbarous Relic, a novel about a renegade Fed chairman.  Visit his website.