Millions of Petty Tyrants

Column by tzo.


Exclusive to STR


The empirical evidence that power corrupts goes a long way in explaining the inevitable one-way course to tyranny trod by all governments. Having a monopoly on force, corruption within the government monopoly cannot be effectively checked, and growing corruption and its attendant increasing power eventually congeal into absolute power and absolute corruption.
Kurt Vonnegut turned a slightly more colorful phrase in articulating the association of power and corruption by claiming that human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. It must be pretty heady stuff indeed to be in a position within the U.S. government in which you effectively are part of the controlling mechanism of over 3.8 million square miles and 350 million human lives, not to mention the power projected out over the rest of the entire globe.
The most dangerous aspect of our “democratic” government, though, is the fact that the reg’ler folks are made to feel that they are part of the system. Shareholders, as it were. "We" is thrown around a lot, even when the government seems to be spinning out of control. The situation is rarely articulated as “us versus them,” but rather "we are the government and we are doing it to ourselves," and “we have to work within the system to fix the system.”
This is an extremely dangerous perspective for the subjects to have, because as the government slides into tyranny, it is encouraged and pushed along by millions of petty little tyrants—a vast multitude of power-drunk chimpanzees.
What should "we" do in Afghanistan? Wow, what a power-tie-wearing question! "We" must decide. It is up to "us." They are "our" troops. What should be “our” objective?
See what's happening here? The chimpanzees have been given a powerful intoxicant, and they love it. Oh, look, they want some more!
The citizen, being part of the government, feels that the 3.8 million square mile empire with its 350 million subjects is his to play with. By exiting his mother’s birth canal within certain ranges of latitude and longitude, he has acquired property and innate power over other fellow human beings. Good for him and his kind, and tough luck for the others. The power-drunk chimpanzee slumps down on his couch in his 800 square-foot apartment and is lord over all he surveys through his television set, tuned to CNN.
How are the troops doing? Are illegals trying to get in? Are there people not paying taxes? Why is there salmonella in the spinach? Who needs to get bailed out? Who's running in the next election?
Important questions requiring his considered opinions.
Isn’t it just mind-boggling amazing? Invite a person from Mexico to your house, and someone in North Dakota has an opinion on it and also has the guns to back his opinion up. Homeschooling children where it is not permitted? Moe from Oklahoma says lock up the parents and take the kids! Busybodies with opinions on all sorts of things that shouldn't concern them, but it’s “our” country and so “we” have to be involved in everything that happens.
Queens of Hearts residing in every domicile, rendering judgments on events occurring many hundreds of miles away, involving people they never have met and never will meet. The kingdom is large. Off with their heads!
You see? The citizen is not pitted against the government, he is a part of it. And he is willingly a part when he feels that he has a hand on one of the controls that guide Leviathan. Play by Leviathan's rules, and you, too, can rule. You can join the army of the righteous and fight the good fight against the pot smoking, non-voting, raw-milk-drinking hooligans. Here’s your gun and brown shirt—go git ‘em!
Like the international scene better? Well, you can participate in the killing of hundreds of thousands of brown people in remote parts of the world and suffer no consequences! How can you beat that deal? Power of the gods in your very own hands! What does it matter if you cannot write a complete sentence, read an entire book, or pinpoint on the globe just where those unfortunate brown people with targets on their foreheads live? Willful ignorance in exchange for power, heck, even just for the illusion of power, is a pretty sweet deal, my friend.
Besides, the Average American Citizen is not really responsible for any of the bad stuff his government may be doing. Although he is part of it by way of the democratic process, he is not really part of the stuff he may find reprehensible, right? Or maybe he subconsciously accepts that he is responsible, but also knows he is addicted to the power associated with it, and so cannot or will not admit to himself what he is advocating in exchange for this intoxicating power.
This is not a new mindset. George Orwell saw it and dubbed it “doublethink” in his novel 1984:
"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink…”
Let us not forget that fear is the ultimate basis for such a paradoxical mindset, even though other justifications are claimed in order to avoid the admission of cowardice. Justify the actions of the bully and join his gang so as not to receive a bloody pug yourself.
War is peace. Slavery is freedom. Ignorance is strength. And now another: To be ruled over is to rule.
When a democratic nation becomes tyrannical, this is a description of the majority of the population, not just the elected officials. Power-drunk chimpanzees, all. Everyone is tying them on, and it's a long, lost weekend filled with blackout drinkers. C’mon, another round for everyone!
Wuzzat? Hey, buddy, just love it or leave it pal, OK? Stupid hippie pinko commie. People died so you could be here, so just kiss my red, white, and blue butt.
These chimps have absolutely nothing over the syphilitic, inbred monarchs of old in their deft wielding of might-makes-right wisdom. These newfangled enablers of power who are themselves enabled by their betters with the illusion of power—all are tightly clusterstuck together in a death spiral right on down to the cold, hard ground. The crash will not be pretty, but for now, it’s full steam ahead. It just feels too good to stop.
So pardon me while I leave you now, as I must go and decide upon the proper inflation rate necessary for a healthy economy. It’s not all glitz and glamour running the most powerful empire the world has ever seen, you know. My input is needed on a wide range of issues.
After all, I am large and in charge: I am the government. *Hic*
Millions of petty tyrants
Issuing proclamations.
The mucilage that binds together
democratic nations.
What you do is my concern
And what you own is mine.
If you don't like the way it works
Then hit the road, Sunshine.


Your rating: None Average: 10 (4 votes)
tzo's picture
Columnist tzo
Columns on STR: 64

tzo now lives in your head.


Mike Powers's picture

Excellent column!

Suverans2's picture

Solid 10, tzo!

Arbeit mact frei's picture

What is needed is a cure for power madness. Something like the "cure" for heroin addiction; a powerful and addicting drug like methadone, where the addict can be diverted into a new addiction where he (and sometimes she) can no longer cheat, steal, rob, maim and kill to get the next fix.

tzo's picture

The cure is love and respect for others, which can only follow from love of and respect for self. Unfortunately, this seems to be in short supply.

If we can teach this to our kids, then all they will have to do is wait for us to all die off and then they can have a better place in which to live.

Suverans2's picture

As one teacher put it " thy neighbour as thyself".

This "love" was translated from the ancient Greek word agapao, which meant, "to love (in a social or moral sense)". It did not mean, "to love (sensually)" [agab], or even "to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or an object]), that is, have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling" [phileo]. [1]

respect VERB
→ to show that you understand the importance of something by not doing anything against it
→ to obey a rule, law, etc. [2]

These two, as we can see, have very much in common, because we show our "love", "in a social or moral sense", for our fellow man, by "respecting" him, i.e. by "not doing anything against [him]". And, by "not doing anything against [him]" is meant, by obeying the "natural law (of man)", by showing "respect" for his "natural rights", that is to say, his right ("just claim") to his own life, his right to liberty, and his right to his justly acquired property.

This is why another great teacher, Lysander Spooner, who called the “Natural Law”, “The Science of Justice[3], made the following profound statement.

“It is the science of peace; and the only science of peace; since it is the science which alone can tell us on what conditions mankind can live in peace, or ought to live in peace, with each other.”

[1] Greek Dictionary by Dr. James Strong
[2] Macmillan Dictionary

tzo's picture

Quite a few teachers over the years have all discovered the same idea:

Must be something to it, aye?

Suverans2's picture

This article reminded me of a line from the movie The Matrix (c.1999).

Morpheus: The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around. What do you see. Business men, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.

Suverans2's picture

Wonder how many of us believe that "the government" IS "the system", and that when "the government" collapses under it's own weight, (which all insatiable things must eventually do), that "the system" will collapse with it?

system noun → rules that decide how a society, country, or organization should operate... ~ Macmillan Dictionary

It's not "the government" that creates "the system", it is "the system" that creates "the government".

GIGO, (garbage in, garbage out). It is " the system" that is the "foundation", so if the WRONG "system" is used to build a house, a WRONG house will be built. No amount of effort will make that house RIGHT.

"Away, then, with quacks and organizers! Away with their rings, chains, hooks, and pincers! Away with their artificial systems! Away with the whims of governmental administrators, their socialized projects, their centralization, their tariffs, their government schools, their state religions, their free credit, their bank monopolies, their regulations, their restrictions, their equalization by taxation, and their pious moralizations!"

"Let Us Now Try Liberty!" ~

Suverans2's picture

The RIGHT system, the only foundation that will have any chance of producing lasting liberty is the Natural Law, "It is the science of peace; and the only science of peace: since it is the science which alone can tell us on what conditions mankind can live in peace, or ought to live in peace, with each other." (

"A philosopher can choose to disbelieve in Newton's laws, but this will not enable him to fly. He can disbelieve in natural law, but political and social institutions built on false law will fail, just as a bridge built on false physical law will fall..." ~ James A. Donald

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

Dear Tzo: Your description of the power-drunk chimps of democracy is a good parallel to the points made by Hans Hermann Hoppe in "Democracy: The God that Failed." Hoppe notes that at least in a monarchy you know who is the badass that's totally responsible for the misdeeds. In a democracy, it's lots of your neighbors, and the idiotic belief that vox populi (est) vox dei "empowers" the chimps with a sense of self-righteousness that leads them into the hundreds of crusades that have been so bloody in the "century of democracy," which of course is the 20th century, so dipped in blood. The self-righteous worldview of the "democratic man" enables him to commit any atrocity in the name of the people -- as any number of examples have shown. Thanks for writing.

Suverans2's picture

G'day Lawrence M. Ludlow,

I think that any attack on "Democracy" alone is missing the mark. The "power-drunk chimps" of communism, for example, are at least as bad. "Compare: 100 million people murdered by governments this century; 75% by communist regimes — to about 38 million killed in all wars and conflicts."

In my opinion, it's is not Democracy, or any other form of government, that is at fault. It is the fact that all of them are a “law unto themselves”, which means they are “lawless”, that is at the root of the problem.

law unto oneself Fig. one who ignores laws or rules; one who sets one's own standards of behavior. ~ The Free Dictionary by Farlex

The laws or rules that are being ignored by every man-made government on Earth is the Natural Law (of man). It is being ignored because "recognition" of it would drastically limit their power. It is this lack of law that “enables them to commit any atrocity”. Frédéric Bastiat perhaps explains it best.


The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!

Each of us has a natural right--from God[1]--to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties?

If every person has the right to defend -- even by force -- his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right -- its reason for existing, its lawfulness -- is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force -- for the same reason -- cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.

Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?

If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.

A Just and Enduring Government

If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well as in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, nonoppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable -- whatever its political form might be. ~

[1] Any reader who is offended by the concept of God need only omit that phrase which contains it. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.