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31


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 31, July 1, 1997

Lies Our Forefathers Told Us

By Victor Milan
vicmilan@ix.netcom.com

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Approaching the 4th of July is a good time to balance our outlook on the American Revolution. Noble as its spirit was, its execution was flawed.
         The Founders had some pretty grave hitches in their stride when it came to freedom. Tory civil liberties were ravaged by "patriots" mainly eager to steal their goods. Women and non-whites were excluded from suffrage. Slavery was allowed to fester. Even the Declaration of Independence -- a document infinitely more revolutionary than anything produced by those feudalist reactionaries, the socialists -- makes it clear that one of the colonists' chief grievance against the Crown was that it wouldn't let them pillage the Indians as uninhibitedly as they desired.
         For a more detailed look at the Revolution's vices, read Wendy McElroy's article in TLE #7, April 1996, "The American Revolution Revisited" at http://www.webleyweb.com/tle/le960406.html. My intent is to expose two of the most pernicious lies our forefathers told us.
         First is the conceit that, as Jefferson wrote in his 1774 pamphlet "A Summary View of the Rights of British America," "...kings are the servants, not the proprietors of the people." That was a popular theme among the founders. The Declaration, of course, says, "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men..." John Locke, a favorite philosopher of the Revolutionaries, claimed the State "should be confined to the protection of man's natural rights."
         Great; and cancer should confine itself to its point of origin and never spread. It is a mistake to imagine that what should be is, or indeed can ever be.
         The problem with this view of government is that it's romantic bullshit. Governments are instituted to secure power, profit, and privilege for those who constitute them, and nothing else.
         The belief in "government for the benefit of the governed" is a variation of the something-for-nothing fallacy. It's predicated on the notion that humans are too wicked to govern themselves, and therefore must be governed by others. But those others are...human. So where does this "something" -- the ability to govern -- come from? The same place the plenty leftists believe should be the lot of everyone (except those who produce) comes from: thin air.
         Politics and liberty are mutually fatal. They are not symbiotes, they are not co-evolutionary. Over the long term, one must strangle the other.
         Government exists by destroying liberty, and therefore exists to destroy liberty. Only by destroying liberty can government fulfill its only function, which is to convey power to its participants. Likewise, only by depriving the people of liberty through force or fraud can government transfer their wealth to its component persons and their friends.
         Some of our forefathers understood this scam perfectly well. John Adams, one of the most heinous betrayers of Revolutionary principles, spoke with cynical candor of the need "to contrive some method for the colonies to glide insensibly from under the old government into peaceable and contented submission to new ones." Which is to say, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
         And from the other side, Thomas Payne wrote in Common Sense that "Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise."
         No matter how sincerely meant, the concept that government does or can serve to guarantee "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is a pernicious lie; and believing in it has given the government rein to strip us of all those things.
         The second lie is implicit in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence: that government can be limited.
         Which brings us back to the cancer cell. It's the nature of government to grow and grow, to eat and eat. All incentives push that way. In a "limited government" system, the downside of evading the limitations -- the risk that one might be caught, and lose the power and profit accruing from government "service" -- is almost the same as the certainty that, by living within those limitations, one foregoes all the goodies one could grab by evading them. So the real incentive is to figure out clever ways to evade the limitations without getting caught.
         Which is what's been going on in America since the Revolution.
         Minimal government us not sustainable. It wasn't sustainable 220 years ago -- it hasn't been sustained, has it? And now the bad guys have had two centuries' practice busting any limitations we might impose.
         There's the reason it's fatuous to talk about how we can lay down limits politicians cannot escape because we're "smarter" than they are. If we're so smart, why are they in charge? Aside from all the time they've had to perfect their arts of twisting the rhetoric of "limiting government" to the service of expanding it -- for examples, check anything Bill Clinton has said since November of 1994 -- they have the edge in motivation. We're looking at maybe half our paychecks, so far, going to government; our rulers owe all their livelihoods to the continued power of government -- not to mention trivia such as functional immunity from prosecution for crimes up to and including capital ones.
         Besides, when it comes to politics and the law, government makes the rules, interprets the rules, decides when, how, and whether the rules are to be enforced. Government will never lose any significant battles in either arena from here on out. It won't allow itself to.
         So we can forget all about imposing limits. The sooner the better.
         Let's continue to give our admiration and gratitude to the men and women who defeated the Evil Empire of their day, and won us the greatest run of freedom, imperfect as it was, in the history of the species. But they betrayed their own revolution before it had truly begun, by failing to eradicate the State. If we shackle ourselves to them too tightly, we don't just risk repeating their mistakes -- and indeed it's no risk, but certainty -- we make worse ones.
         The hope of freedom consists in the abolition of government. Half-measures are foredoomed. They have been tried: they do not work. Until we quit heeding the lies our forefathers told us -- that government can serve liberty; that government can be limited -- we risk betraying the real principles of the Revolution even as we believe we're serving them.


Prometheus Award-winner Victor Milan is the author of over 70 novels, including the just-released CLD from AvoNova and War In Tethyr from TSR.


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