L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 213, March 3, 2003
COME AND SEE!
The Fall of the Republic
Exclusive to TLE
"Another galaxy, another time.
"The Old Republic was the Republic of legend, greater than distance or time. No need to note where it was or whence it came, only to know that ... it was the Republic.
"Once, under the wise rule of the Senate and the protection of the Jedi Knights, the Republic thrived and grew. But as often happens when wealth and power pass beyond the admirable and attain the awesome, then appear those evil ones who have greed to match.
"So it was with the Republic at its height. Like the greatest of trees, able to withstand any external attack, the Republic rotted from within though the danger was not visible from outside.
"Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and to restore the remembered glory of the Republic.
"Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor..."
—Star Wars, George Lucas (Alan Dean Foster), 1976
I admit it: I'm a big Star Wars fan. I've become an even bigger fan over the years, and there's a reason for this:
On the surface, the Star Wars universe is a very libertarian place to live. It's not an anarcho-capitalist's dream by any means, and in Episodes IV - VI, it's clearly a very harsh place in which to live. But look at the upside:
There's no victim disarmament, not even in enormous metropolitan areas like Corusant. Indeed, it's rare to see anyone WITHOUT a blaster (or if you're a Jedi Knight, a light sabre). You'll see personal sidearms mixed with mounted weapons on privately-owned spaceships, and no government official ever so much as blinks an eye.
There's no regulations against cloning. One can create altered or unaltered clones subject to the will of one's pocketbook (and one might note that the only altered clones [read: "slaves"] are created by government for nefarious ends).
Indeed, there seems to be little or no regulation of technology of any kind, and nowhere is this more obvious than on the Republic's capital world of Corusant.
There's no regulation of travel. If you want to get a flight from one planet to another, there is are no customs officials: simply make your reservations and go. This holds true even on Corusant, where individuals unload their speeders only a few hundred yards from an interstellar liner.
Indeed, it is this lack of regulation that probably accounts for the fact that the Old Republic lasted thousands of years without an army, employing only a small number of Jedi Knights as peacekeepers.
The Star Wars universe is by no means perfect, but it is in many ways a more free universe than any other portrayed in television science fiction.
The "current" Star Wars saga (episodes I through III) are also attractive from the libertarian perspective because of their detailing of the fall of the Old Republic. For students of history, this is essentially a retelling of the politics surrounding the War Between the States -- only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
In many ways (and rather pointedly so), the fall of the Old Republic parallels the fall of the American Republic. I hold the view that we are presently witnessing the implosion of the American FedGov, something that's been in progress since Abraham Lincoln first brought socialism to the United States. The pace of the collapse quickened dramatically in the last century, and it is now positively frenetic. It will fall apart, probably sooner than any of us think.
When I tell people this, many wonder why I take this position. On the surface, the American FedGov appears perfectly healthy and all-powerful. Indeed, many freedom-lovers despair that it is much too powerful. With every passing day, I observe individuals increasingly disheartened by national and global events.
On the surface, things appear grim:
The American FedGov no longer even plays lip service to the Constitution. The American police state grows larger every passing moment. The American populace seems increasingly willing to sacrifice their freedom in the name of a false sense of security that only aids those who wish to enslave them.
If you insist on believing that you can still vote yourself more freedom, then I have to agree: things aren't going to get any better. There's no example anywhere in history of a society voting itself more freedom, and it's folly to believe that the United States is any different just because we happen to be the ones doing the voting.
Despite this, there is every reason to be hopeful about the future. One simply has to modify one's expectations.
How and why do governments change? Typically when they fall or are overthrown. Clearly, the American populace as a whole has neither the means nor the will to overthrow the FedGov, and it would be suicide to suggest its attempt.
However, the FedGov (and the overwhelming majority of StateGovs and LocalGovs) are presently in a state of decay preceding outright collapse:
1. The halls of government at every level are now filled to overflowing with individuals who have only one goal: the attainment of as much personal power as they can possibly amass. They have absolutely no regard for their constituents beyond being beholden to various contributors. They have no regard for the welfare of those they purport to govern. They hold utter contempt for their Oaths of Office, which requires the overwhelming majority to protect and defend the Constitution.
The corruption of government knows no boundaries, not of race, sex, creed, or Party affiliation. Every individual in government is there for one purpose only: the acquisition of sheer, raw, naked power.
Our government is now entirely stocked with nothing but would-be dictators.
2. The American FedGov (and most State and LocalGovs) are financially bankrupt. The American FedGov has been kiting checks for my entire life and shows absolutely no signs of becoming solvent. The only reason it hasn't collapsed already is an utterly irrational faith by the populace in general. If Americans weren't overwhelmingly indoctrinated -- sorry, "educated" -- by government schools, they'd be capable of doing the math and realizing that they're being snowed.
This simply cannot continue forever. At some point, its complete unwillingness to face the financial facts will become a crippling problem as opposed to only a severely debilitating one. I lack any financial training to suggest WHEN it will happen, but the simple fact is that it's not possible to bounce checks FOREVER.
Suffice to say that no government in history has been able to operate in bankruptcy forever. To believe that American governments are somehow exempt from the laws of the free market is ridiculous.
3. The majority of the population no longer participates in government. The most telling aspect of this is what is termed "voter turnout."
When I was a boy, voter participation was measured in terms of "eligible voters," e.g. any American citizen over age 18. Ultimately, this measure of turnout dipped well below 50%. In an effort to mask the fact that so few individuals approved of government enough to participate in it, the measurement was changed to "registered voters."
Even now, that figure is rapidly moving toward 50%. So consider:
Less than 50% of registered voters participate in government the only way that is possible: by voting. The number of registered voters is something less than half those who are eligible -- the other half don't even nother to try. The number of eligible voters is roughly half of the governed population.
Mathematically, less than one-eighth of the governed population actually approves of government: one-half of one-half of one-half.
This is further evidenced by the fact that so few people make any effort to obey even the simplest of government edicts. Most obvious are taxation, sex, narcotics, and gambling: whole industries exist to either circumvent or outright violate such laws. However, even discounting these, the American population no longer troubles to even obey speed limits. Indeed, in large metropolitan areas, it's less safe to obey them than disobey them: try driving at 65mph on Chicago's Kennedy Expressway and see how long it takes for you to be rear-ended by vehicles going 75 or higher.
Certainly some of this is due to the fact that the law is now such a confusing, self-contradictory morass of impossible red tape that not even a lawyer can be expert in it. This in itself contributes to the lack of compliance by the governed.
What this makes crystal clear is America's governments no longer have any legitimacy whatsoever. They are largely irrelevant to the overwhelming majority, viewed as something to be avoided or ignored -- and only very, VERY rarely helpful in any way.
There is now no longer any way to induce those in government to become moral statesmen as opposed to corrupt, would-be dictators. Morality simply isn't in their best interests. There is no way to bring governments back from the abyss of financial collapse. The American populace is aware of this, at least on some level, and now simply seeks to avoid government whenever possible.
What can be the only end result? Collapse.
The American FedGov (and with it the majority of State and LocalGovs that have transformed into its local branches) cannot survive such widespread corruption, basic financial instability, an de-legitimization by its population. It cannot be changed -- nor transformed, tweaked, or "brought back to the intent of the Founders."
The beast is dying. All that is left now is its death throes.
Make no mistake, those death throes will be extremely unpleasant. The current economic recession is probably symptomatic of this, and the FedGov shows no signs of doing the only thing it could to mitigate it: immediately cease meddling in the free market. The current accelerating police state is undoubtedly symptomatic of the collapse: when governments become illegitimate by virtue of non-participation, they seek to force participation through draconian measures. The long-term trend of foreign adventurism is also indicative, since lacking any legitimacy among its native population, it seeks to impose legitimacy outside it.
It will get worse. Foreign adventurism will continue to incite terrorism. Victim disarmament will create more ready victims, both for home-grown and foreign miscreants. The police state will tighten.
In the immortal words of a great fictional rebel, "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star-systems will slip through your fingers."
Someday soon, a bunch of fools in Washington who insist on calling themselves "the Federal Government" will spend their days passing laws. They'll lie to themselves, nodding sagely and congratulating each other about all the good they're doing. Those of us outside the Beltway will be too busy building a free society and conquering the stars to pay any attention to the doddering old dimwits.
Or is that what most of us are already doing ... ?