"Government means always coercion and compulsion and is by necessity the opposite of liberty." ~ Ludwig von Mises
The Slavery of Politics
Column by R.K. Blacksher
Exclusive to STR
There are few things more frustrating than engaging in a discussion with a Constitutionalist. It is a very depressing spectacle to observe people who are often very rational descend into the most vulgar style of starry-eyed hero worship when discussing the Founding Fathers and their divine governing document.
Lysander Spooner effectively eviscerated the Constitution in 1870. When engaging in discussions with Constitutionalists, I will often quote Spooner's statement that the Constitution "has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist." This is a simple yet powerful indictment. The logic here is unassailable, and indeed Constitutionalists typically do not even attempt to refute Spooner‘s logic. Instead, they fall back on the argument that the problem lies not in the Constitution but in the people who have been elected to administer and uphold it.
This argument highlights a very interesting parallel between Constitutionalists and communists. While members of both groups would likely be loath to admit it, Constitutionalists and communists are united by a shared delusion: the belief that their preferred system would work wonderfully if only "the right people" were in charge.
The problem is that within the confines of any system of domination and exploitation, “the right people” simply do not exist.
Domination in a Democratic Society
Human beings, like other social animals, have a natural tendency to form dominance hierarchies. As a species capable of high levels of cognition, humans have developed some rather ingenious ways of dominating each other.
With respect to various forms of social organization, a type of path dependence seems to exist. The way in which a society chooses its leaders will determine the type of people who rise to the top of that society. A society that chooses its rulers based on the principle of “might makes right” will come to be dominated by the most physically strong members of society. A hereditary monarchy will be dominated by members of the royal family.
Many libertarian-minded individuals have written insightfully about the types of leaders who rise to the top in democratic societies. Since democratic leaders acquire power by convincing a majority of voters to support them, they must find some way to cobble together a coalition large enough to win an election. This is most easily done by appealing to people’s worst instincts. As F.A. Hayek wrote, “If we wish to find a high degree of uniformity and similarity of outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive and ‘common’ instincts and tastes prevail.”
Hans Hoppe was even more explicit when he wrote, “The selection of government rulers by means of popular elections makes it practically impossible that any good or harmless person could ever rise to the top. Prime ministers and presidents are selected for their proven efficiency as morally uninhibited demagogues.”
While Lord Acton was certainly correct when he observed that power corrupts, that is really only part of the story. It is equally true that corrupt people tend to be the ones who seek power in the first place. The siren song of the State is irresistible to someone with an overdeveloped libido dominandi. Thus, there is an inverse relationship between how much an individual wants power and how much he can be trusted to exercise his power in a prudent and responsible manner.
(Note: Lest Constitutionalists object that America is a republic and not a democracy, I hasten to add that these observations also apply to the leaders in a representative republic.)
No one would be surprised if a society organized around the principle of “might makes right” came to be dominated by the most physically strong members of society. Similarly, no one would be surprised to find that political power in a hereditary monarchy always seems to be wielded by members of the same family.
Why, then, are people surprised when societies in which leaders are chosen by democratic elections come to be dominated by liars, demagogues, and sociopaths? Why do so many people, from Constitutionalists to progressives to some libertarians, seem to think all of their problems can be solved by “throwing out the bums” and electing “the right people”?
The answer, I think, lies in another characteristic of democracy: its ingenious system of propaganda.
Democracy is somewhat unique among systems of domination and control in that it often successfully convinces the victims of domination to be enthusiastically complicit in their own enslavement. Convincing average people to become invested in the political process is perhaps the most ingenious mode of control ever developed by the ruling class. Under feudalism and monarchism, the ruling class was generally only able to control people's physical bodies. Democratic propaganda, by convincing people that they are the government, gives the ruling class a way to control people's minds.
The ruling class wants people to think that voting, civic engagement, political activism, and all of that other claptrap are very important. This is why cable news pundits, ruling class propagandists that they are, spend the vast majority of their time to covering politics. This is why presidential elections now last for two years. That is why nearly every news story, regardless of whether or not it has anything to do with politics, is endlessly analyzed for its political implications. As many people have noted, one of the hallmarks of a totalitarian society is the politicization of everything.
As people devote more and more of their time to politics, people begin to believe that they have a vested interest in preserving the existing architecture of power and exploitation. People begin to falsely believe that their fates are inextricably intertwined with the fates of their rulers. And that is precisely what the rulers want.
Democratic propagandists try to get the members of the exploited class to sanction the sociopathy of the ruling class by, in essence, trying to turn the members of the exploited class into sociopaths.
People cannot free themselves if they do not believe they are enslaved. People need to stop trying to free themselves through politics and start trying to free themselves from politics.