L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 223, May 11, 2003
We Are All Liberals Now
Special to TLE
Rush Limbaugh always tells us that two identifying characteristics
of a liberal are:
If this is the case, we might as well face it: 96 percent of Americans are liberals. A bill [House Bill 1368] currently going through the Colorado State House of Representativesit may be law by the time you read thiswill require students in public schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning at the start of school.
The mentality behind this bill is highly simplistic: requiring recitation of the Pledge will instill patriotism in the hearts and minds of Colorado's children and teenagers. The rhetoric used against anyone who opposes this bill will be similarly simplistic: if you oppose it, you are anti-flag and just not a patriot.
I thought only liberals believed in superficial, quick fix, feel good solutions to problems. The bill's sponsor is State Representative Bill Crane, a Republican from Arvada, just northwest of Denver. Supporters of this bill no doubt believe they are doing Colorado a favor. In reality, forcing people to recite pledges no more instills patriotic fervor than progressive income taxes instill compassion for the poor.
I thought only liberals condemned those who disagreed with them as evil. Disagreeing with liberals meant that you, personally, are racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. In the fall of 2001, Attorney General Ashcroft stated, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists." Today, when you disagree with someone who calls himself a conservative, you are liberal, anti-family, pro-drug, pro-terrorism and so forth.
I use the phrase "calls himself a conservative", as there are very few Americanslet us just say four percentleft who seriously want to conserve those principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Democrats are at least honest when they say they believe that oppressive taxes and intrusive government are good things. Republicans say they believe that oppressive taxes and intrusive government are rotten things, unless they are in charge. Then, government becomes the grooviest thing in the world.
There is no serious constituency for limited government and individual freedom today in either government or the media. We have known for a long time that the schools and universities are quagmires of socialism. Government and media are about the same any longer. No matter who gets elected, taxation remains oppressive and government grows larger and more heavy-handed. When Bill Clinton was at the helm of the socialist superstate, there were some folks on talk radio opposing and exposing the advancement of tyranny in America. But now that GWB is in charge, and tyrannizing us even more, these folks sing the praises of every new encroachment upon our liberty.
The debate is no longer between big government and small government, but rather who gets the credit for the latest tightening of the vise grip around the American people. Recently, I said that politics should resemble football, with one team moving the ball toward one end zone, and the other team moving the ball toward the opposite end zone. Someone e-mailed me back saying that contemporary politics is more like baseball, with both teams working to advance across the same plate, but just earlier and more often. The name-calling between the two factions of our ruling class is just about as infantile as between two teams playing tee-ball in the local park. And the stakes are frequently about as significant.
In 1969, President Nixon pronounced himself a Keynesian. It was newsworthy at the time that a Republican president was adhering to the liberal economic policies of John Maynard Keynes. Milton Friedman remarked, "We are all Keynesians now."
We might as well admit it: we are all liberals now. There was a time when liberals had all the new ideas for using the government to make the world a better place, and conservatives opposed them with constitutional and empirical arguments. Liberals relied on symbolism and conservatives relied on substance. Liberals felt and conservatives thought.
Actually, there is a small remnantperhaps four percent of the American peoplethat are seriously committed to preserving America's Founding principles. The rest would rather be fashionable and do what is trendy. And this is where we get so messed up about this whole Pledge business.
Last summer, the Ninth Circuit Court declared that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. The outrage in response to this was refreshing. How dare these secularists impose their values on the rest of us! Mandatory pledges are similarly silly impositions. We can make people say pledges, but we cannot instill in them a love of liberty. Liberty means the absence of the initiation of force. Initiation of force whether by compulsory attendance laws in schools or by unprovoked invasions of foreign nations was an anathema to the Founders.
(And how will we enforce such a law? With black helicopters hovering over schools and dropping off brown-shirted, black ski-masked, machine gun toting stormtroopers from the Pledge Enforcement Administration to arrest teachers who do not lead their classes in the Pledge? Judging by the way the authorities react to medical marijuana patients and six-year-olds drawing crayon pictures of cowboys with guns, this may not be a stretch. Will pledge crime mean hard time?)
I had sworn last summer, after writing twice on this subject that I would not do so again. Well, take me to the woodshed. But I only do so because this whole Pledge controversy illustrates so many points about how far we in America have gone astray.
It is controversies such as this that prompt me to step outside at night, gaze up at the stars, and repeat the recent words of an old friend back in Arizona:
... Lord, when's the Big Rock gonna hit?!?!?!
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