The Daily Reckoning
11/17/11 Buenos Aires, Argentina – Before I get started… Anybody here know what glossophobia means? The word derives from the Greek glossa, meaning tongue, and phobos, meaning fear or dread. Glossophobia, also known as speech anxiety, is a fear of public speaking.
And I suffer from it terribly.
Glossophobia aside, I’m going to press on today anyway because what I want to talk to you about is very important. Maybe more so now than ever.
The title of my speech is “Freedom: The New and Future Experiment.”
This topic is particularly timely right now because, as you well know, a revolution of sorts is today under way in a place that used to be comfortable calling itself, proudly and with a straight face, “The Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.” Try asking any thinking individual who happened to be born within the United States borders today to claim that title without arousing a disquieting feeling of tragic irony. You might hear the words, but you’ll notice they are delivered with an empty conviction, with some embarrassment, a shame, almost, for remembering what was lost.
But before addressing the New and Future Experiment, let’s take a look at the Old and Moribund Experiment: Statism.
From the Pharaohs through to warlords, kings and queens, generalissimos, barbarians, emperors, chairmen, führers, shoguns, sheiks, tsars, presidents, prime ministers and the rest of the dirty rotten scoundrels, nobody could say we humans didn’t give “The State” a fair go.
Statism exists in many forms. All, I will argue, are inherently evil. All end in eventual and painful demise.
Why do I say that all forms of Statism are evil? Surely there is an argument for some kind of “minarchist” arrangement of governmental oversight, the Praetorian guard, the night watchman, some kind of political structure to protect us against the aggressions of our neighbors who are always and forever waiting at our front gates, ever at the ready for the law to change or turn its back so they can come and pilfer our grains, raid our gold stockpiles and defile our daughters?
It is sometimes said that religion makes men do noble things. And that’s true. But religion also makes men do heinous, hellish things. Why else would anybody strap a bomb to themselves and run into a kindergarten, for example, if they didn’t think God was on their side?
I’m reminded here of that great skit from Scottish comedian, Billy Connelly.
“I want to go to one of these suicide bomber schools,” he says. “You can just imagine the instructor.
“Alright lads… I’m only going to show you this once…”
Statism is the new religion.
Men used to march off to war for “God, King and Country.” Now he marches off to war to “spread democracy” — the credo of the new religion.
How many people, we wonder, would feel compelled to battle on foreign lands, the whereabouts of which were heretofore unknown to them, to slay “the enemy,” to lay waste to husbands, fathers and brothers they have never before met, to Napalm fields, Agent Orange crops, to litter terrain afar with landmines, if they didn’t believe the patriotic claptrap with which their State ceaselessly indoctrinates them?
No. Statism, in any form, is wicked because it attacks us at our most basic human level. It undermines our dignity. It presupposes that we are incapable of caring for each other and ourselves without its continued and ever increasing invigilation. It tells us that we are not born free individuals, but servants of the State.
In this way, the State is not the preserver and protector of freedom, but anathema to it.
But perhaps most cruelly, most insidiously, the State tells us that we need it more than it needs us. Untrue. It is important here to remember that the State is nothing more than a collection of men and women who initiate force against everybody else, the very same citizens they purport to serve, to represent…and who (are forced to) pay their salaries.
I’m reminded of Doug Casey’s observation that during the Viet Nam War, peace protestors used to carry placards reading, “What if there was a war and nobody showed up?” to which Doug adds, “What if they levied a tax and nobody paid?”
Here we can see immediately that, contrary to what they would have us believe, it is the State that depends on our complicit support to exist at all, not the reverse. It is a form of mass, political Stockholm Syndrome, where the captors gradually come to accept the commands of their master as a demented kind of benevolence, eventually even feeling compassion for and allegiance to him.
That, in a nutshell, is the definition of patriotism: allegiance to one’s own gatekeeper, affection for one’s oppressor.
There are, of course, those who argue that without the State, we would be without the means to build and maintain roads and other critical infrastructure — that we would be without hospitals and schools, without the “safety net” the State is forever crowing about having provided for us.
But to hold this point, one must first admit that there exists, within society, the resources, the productive capacity to build and provide these goods and services in the first place. Those arguing for State intervention are merely saying that the State is the preferred method for delivery, for redistributing a wealth of resources that already exists, through its superior mode of governance.
A dear friend of mine shared with me recently a fantastic quote that addresses just this point. It comes from Allen Thornton’s excellent essay, Laws of the Jungle…
“What do you think ‘govern’ means?” asks Thornton. “It doesn’t mean ‘suggest’ or ‘implore.’ It doesn’t mean two people sitting down, talking it over, and compromising. ‘Govern’ means ‘force’ and ‘force’ means ‘violence.’ When you advocate any government action, you must first believe that violence is the best answer to the question at hand.”
This is the Old Experiment.
Empires…their monies…their militaries and their promises. All these things eventually, invariably, die. You might even say it’s what they were born to do. Their death, in other words, is inevitable. Only the number of innocent individuals they take with them varies.
At this, we should not be surprised. But we should be prepared.
Ever since statists first cobbled together a collective of ruling people, the “rest” have been living under one form of tyranny or another. From tribal leadership structures to local council hierarchies, from Plato’s philosopher class to medieval monarchies through to the various “isms” of our modern times, there has existed one class of rulers — sometimes called guardians, other times tyrants — who have seen fit to exert their ways and rules on all others, usually, ultimately, on pain of death.
In the end, individual freedoms are surrendered to the precise degree that the State is permitted to exist at all.
Most people accept the State’s intrusions on their freedoms as minor grievances. They shrug and mutter something about the “best of a bad bunch” or the “lesser of two evils.” Nevertheless, for the vast majority of people, surrendering a little liberty (or a lot!) for a little safety or convenience is a pretty good deal. That, despite Benjamin Franklin’s famous call to caution that…
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
To be continued…
for The Daily Reckoning