Monday, November 15, 2010
The Statist Box
by Jacob G. Hornberger
To get a good picture of the plight that afflicts the American people, imagine a great big box in which the American people are living. The box is a statist box, one in which there is a jungle of socialist, interventionist, and imperialist programs.
Social Security. Medicare. Medicaid. Subsidies. Public (i.e., government) schooling. Public housing. Food stamps. Farm subsidies. Bank bailouts. Corporate grants. Community grants. Education grants. SBA loans. Foreign aid. Foreign military bases. Invasions. Occupations. Torture. Secret prison camps. Military tribunals. Assassinations. Paper Money. Legal tender laws. Central bank. Trade restrictions. Economic regulations. Occupational licensure. Embargoes. Sanctions. Immigration controls. Standing army. Military-industrial complex. Drug laws. Welfare and regulatory departments and agencies. Income taxation and the IRS.
As you look around the box, however, what you see written all over the walls is the following mantra: “Freedom and free enterprise! That’s what makes America exceptional!”
Most everyone in the box, especially liberals and conservatives, are convinced that the mantra is true. From the first grade in the public (government) schools that most of them attended (or government-approved schools), their minds have been molded into accepting this fundamental tenet of life in the box — that America is freedom and that all those programs are part of America’s free enterprise system.
Being statist in reality, however, the programs are always in disrepair. Crisis, chaos, and war have become a permanent feature of American life.
The fight between liberals and conservatives is always over how the programs should be reformed and who should manage them. “My reform should be adopted! Elect me to public office!” cries the liberal. “No, it’s my reform that will fix our free-enterprise system. Elect me to public office,” responds the conservative.
What the statists fail to recognize, however, is that no reform, liberal or conservative, will ever fix the system. Why? Because statism is inherently defective. It is incapable of working. No reform will ever make a difference. And neither will any particular person running it.
Moreover, statism is inherently defective even though people are convinced that it’s free enterprise. Operating under a lie or a delusion cannot affect the reality of what is occurring. Just because liberals and conservatives are convinced that all that statist jungle is “freedom and free enterprise” — and even they have had this belief inculcated into their minds since they were six years old — it makes no difference. Reality is reality even if people choose to deny it.
Enter the libertarians. One of the things that distinguish us libertarians from everyone else is the fact that we have broken free, intellectually and psychologically, from the statist box. Unlike liberals and conservatives, we understand that the box is a jungle of statist programs. We don’t operate under the delusion that all that socialism, interventionism, and imperialism is freedom and free enterprise. On the contrary, we understand that freedom and free enterprise require the dismantling of the statist programs, not their continuation and reform.
Unfortunately, all too many liberals and conservatives are incorrigible. They are solidly committed to statism, in large part because they’re convinced that it’s all freedom and free enterprise. Thus, they remain perpetually hopeful that they’re finally going to find the reform that makes “free enterprise” work. Their plight is best described by the words of Johann von Goethe: None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
But there are lots of Americans inside the box who are do not consider themselves ideological liberals or conservatives. They are Americans who are truly concerned with the ever-worsening situation in the United States. They are searching for the right diagnosis and the right solution.
That’s why we libertarians must continue standing our ground and raising people’s vision to the libertarian paradigm, with the aim of finding those Americans who are able to break free of the statist box and join up with those of us who are committed to dismantling, not reforming, it.