Sunday, October 05, 2008

Tyranny is Normal, Liberty is Not

Commenters here have often said they fear this nation, the United States of America, is being slowly destroyed from within by our willingness to accept government control over more and more of our lives. Walter Williams, one of the great modern conservative thinkers, has always provided reason to believe that this too will pass.

Today, in a column in the OC Register, even Williams is pessimistic about the future of America and the great experiment in representative democracy.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Our Experiment With Liberty May Be Ending

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned, "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding." The freedom of individuals from compulsion or coercion never was, and is not now, the normal state of human affairs. The normal state for the ordinary person is tyranny, arbitrary control and abuse, mainly by their own government.

While imperfect in its execution, the founders of our nation sought to make an exception to this ugly part of mankind's history. Unfortunately, at the urging of the American people, we are in the process of unwittingly returning to mankind's normal state of affairs.

Americans demand that Congress spend trillions of dollars on farm subsidies, financial bailouts, education subsidies, Social Security, Medicare and prescription drugs and other elements of a welfare state. The problem is that Congress produces nothing. Whatever Congress wishes to give, it has to first take other people's money.

Thus, at the root of the welfare state is the immorality of intimidation, threats and coercion backed up with the threat of violence by the agents of the U.S. Congress. In order for Congress to do what some Americans deem as good, it must first do evil. It must do that which if done privately would mean a jail sentence; namely, take the property of one American to give to another.

If we Americans didn't give Washington such enormous control over our lives, I doubt whether there would be 10 percent of the money currently spent on lobbying and campaign contributions. This enormous control that Congress has over our lives also goes a long way toward explaining much of the corruption that we see in Washington.

If the average American were asked whether he wishes to return to mankind's normal state of affairs characterized by arbitrary abuse, control and government dictates, I am sure he would find such a suggestion repulsive. But if you were to ask, say, the average senior citizen whether Social Security, Medicare and prescription drug subsidies should be continued, he would probably answer yes.

The same would be true if you asked a college professor whether higher education should continue to be subsidized, or a farmer or a dairyman whether their products should be subsidized, or a manufacturer whether there should be tariffs and quotas on foreign products that compete with his product. The problem with congressmen producing favors and privileges to all interest groups is that it creates what none of us wants: massive control, numerous dictates and micromanagement of our lives.

There is no question that if one were to ask whether we Americans are moving towards more liberty or more government control over our lives, the answer would unambiguously be the latter – more government control over our lives. We might have reached a point where the trend is irreversible and that is a true tragedy for if liberty is lost in America, it will be lost for all times and all places.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "...all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." The normal state of human affairs has always been tyranny, preferably benign, but tyranny nonetheless.

We humans prefer fiction over fact, lies over truth, hate over love, hoarding over sharing. Just look to our children - we must teach our children to share; we must teach our children to be truthful; we must teach our children to refrain from hitting, kicking, and biting. We teach citizenship whether of the nation or the world, sportsmanship and fair play, right and wrong. We must teach civility in behavior, language, and thought. Civility is the basis of civilization.

If all of this were natural, there would be no need to teach such skills. But we do teach them because the natural state is far less than Rousseau's noble savage, it is simply savage - the natural and normal state of human affairs.

In America, we revisit the question of our survival as a nation every four years during presidential elections. And always we choose the candidate, Democrat or Republican, promising to deliver the most of more services that quickly become rights and entitlements. Character doesn't matter. Affiliation and association don't matter. All that matters is getting an acceptable exchange for our liberty.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

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