"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences." ~ C.S. Lewis
A Kingdom of Lies
Column by Alex R. Knight III.
Exclusive to STR
“People don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Ask virtually any person on the street if they like being lied to, and they will invariably tell you no. Of course – what other answer would you ever expect?
But the truth is that people quite obviously do like to be lied to. Just not consciously. I have already broached the subject here. No need to cover old ground once again.
Needless to say, this is a very ugly reality for anyone interested in liberty. After all, we have come to realize that libertarianism is the sole socio-economic philosophy that wholly embraces that which separates us from mere beasts: Our ability to reason, through and through. Our ability to make use of logic.
People are emotional creatures, however. First and foremost before deductive reasoning ever enters the picture, something feels right or wrong, and this will more often than not dictate a person’s belief system (to the extent that the hodge-podge of the average human brain ever really constructs any coherent philosophy that could be called a consistent “system;” libertarianism comes about as close as anything is likely to ever get, given the substandard and fallible foundation that we have no choice but to work with). We can be thankful that scientists and inventors do not act thusly, at least while pursuing their stock-in-trade. Were that so we’d all still be living in caves, rubbing sticks together.
Tyrants, despots and dictators of every stripe throughout human history have knowingly used emotional appeal in order to consolidate their power, and foster blind obedience to their dictums. Adolf Hitler openly stated in Mein Kampf that, “The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses.”
This seems to be, like it or not, key to the success of any socio-political movement (true, libertarianism may correctly be called an anti-political movement, but the same principles apply). And I do not personally believe, as some in the libertarian movement might suggest, that utilizing similar methods in the advancement of a truly free voluntary society is the equivalent of attempting to use the One Ring in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Again, like it or not, an average member of society cannot be swayed entirely on the basis of objective evidence alone. They must first be appealed to – all the evidence in turn shows – on an emotional basis.
For indeed, this is how they have come to their present statist, government-apologist standpoint: Government protects me. The police are there when I need them. What if my house is burning down? What about the poor? How can the “country” be defended from invaders and terrorists? We need government to build roads and bridges. Government should provide health care. What about crazy people on drugs or with guns? The rich should have to contribute their “fair share.” Without government, corporations will run the world. And a thousand and one other anxiety-ridden, underinformed, prejudicial, and insecure viewpoints that will not stand up to the test of objective reasoning and demonstrable fact – we know – but that the average John or Jane Doe insists adamantly on believing anyway.
None of that would matter if somehow the statists would simply leave us be – tax collectors, police, and soldiers, mostly. However, thus far, sacrosanct to their statism is an insistence that so long as we are among them geographically, they intend to make us part of their collective – by any measure of force necessary. We, on the other hand, by and large refuse to yield to their aggression by relocating to a deserted Pacific island, some frozen Canadian tundra, or Antarctica. We, after all, are not the initiators of such violence, and have every right to exist in a physical environment meteorologically conducive to our physical survival.
Where does this leave us? Facts and evidence, though they by all rights should turn the necessary keys and unlock the necessary doors, will obviously not suffice – certainly not with the vast majority of the hoi polloi populace.
And that’s who we have to work with. Like it or not. Further, we better like it: Unless we are going to suggest that a voluntary society is only workable among some intellectually elite remnant, we can indeed otherwise forget about ever achieving a full-scale voluntary society. In which case, see you on that Canadian tundra real soon.
No: The paradigm of liberty, I for one remain convinced, can most certainly replace that of coercion and statism. Just as the paradigms of a flat earth, black slavery, female inferiority, poison tomatoes, the “impossibility” of aviation, etc., have all long since been shelved by humanity. But whereas these things have all gone by the boards as a result of evidentiary experience and expanding knowledge, none such has yet occurred on any mass scale with regard to statism. That does not mean that it will not or cannot, only that so far, it has not.
It would appear that appeal to people’s emotions is the card that has not yet been played to its fullest: Do you like being told what to do? Do you really enjoy paying taxes? Do you enjoy seeing bureaucrats get away with things you or I would end up in prison for? Do you like financing the deaths of people, both here in America, and overseas? Do you like the NSA spying on you, the IRS taking your money, being sexually molested at airports? Would you like it if you went to prison for marijuana? Do you really believe voting changes anything, or gives you freedom? These are just a few examples of things that might trigger an emotional – rather than a strictly logical – reaction in the uninitiated. I’m sure you can think of several others. And I think that both human psychology and historical precedent show unequivocally that the odds are far more in favor of the former than the latter. However that, the latter may soon follow the former, and if so, then the battle is being won.
There is before us the task of dismantling this kingdom of lies America – and most of the world -- has become. It is perhaps an unenviable one, if noble in its aspirations. But apparently truth is not doing the job – either rapidly or thoroughly enough. We must shift our focus, I would suggest, to that which has been proven to produce results.
And that is not by attempting to dispel lies, before we change hearts.