L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 283, August 8, 2004
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so
are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to
harm our country and our people, and neither do we."
President George W. Bush, August 5, 2004
Statists and Total Dependency
Exclusive to TLE
Americans have always seen themselves as independent and self-sufficient. The spirit of this nation has fostered the view that any American, willing to work hard and take some risk, could strive to achieve any future he wanted, including the Presidency of the United States. It's a tantalizing picture but if it did ever exist, it is rapidly fading. We have gone from the greatest creditor nation to the greatest debtor nation. We have gone from superpower to supplicant. We are deteriorating from a nation of rugged individuals to a nation of dependents.
The big government statists have convinced most of the American people that our country's greatness stems not from the qualities of its people but from the largess of its government. As the communist world falls apart and searches for ways to embrace capitalism and the free market, America is in the process of making its people as dependent on government as the worst of the socialist nations.
The old-time American idea that every individual is responsible for protecting himself, his family and his property has been replaced with government provided police forces and self-styled advocates who can only act after a crime has been committed and whose role seems to be preventing individual action rather than supporting it. We have the ridiculous situation in which the victim of a crime may be punished more severely than the perpetrator because he has violated some rule or regulation designed to protect the "rights" of the criminal.
The government is buying up huge tracts of land to "protect" it from the predation of its own citizens. It wants to develop a cradle to grave health scheme to foster medical dependence. It intrudes deeper into the education system each day in order to brainwash American children into believing that they cannot exist without the "nanny" government. Anyone who has trouble walking or talking or seeing or hearing or quitting booze or drugs or any of a vast panoply of ailments is made dependent for his survival on the government.
Communism was the great purveyor of the concept of dependency because it was necessary for the government to control the population from top to bottom and the easiest way to make someone obedient is to make them dependent. If the people have to look to the government for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, retirement benefits, education and personal protection the government effectively controls their lives. All the rulers need do is withhold those things to convince all but the most individualistic to toe the mark. Of course it is also necessary for the government to prevent anyone else from providing those services or their monopoly falls apart and the people will look elsewhere. The U. S. Postal service is a prime example.
It is clear that Social Security is also that kind of monopoly. Despite the dismal return on investment and the example of successful retirement systems outside of Social Security the government insists that 100% participation is necessary to insure success. It also insures dependency on government of a large segment of the population.
In the early 1980's it was possible for certain non-federal government agencies to opt out of Social Security and develop their own retirement plan. The county government of Galveston, Texas was among the agencies that took advantage of this Foggy Bottom mental lapse and has developed a system that is so superior to Social Security that many participants will end their careers with a retirement payment that exceeds their former salary. They will also have a significant death benefit that goes to their estate as opposed to the two hundred fifty-five dollars that a few people will receive from the S/S system. In fact, the program is so good that the Feds are trying to force its closure and make its participants go back to Social Security. Sadly it was only a few years before the Federal government realized its error and closed the loophole and once again, the Social Security system became the only game in town.
We continue to have most of our public utilities controlled by government supported monopolies despite the fact that the economic and cultural conditions that spawned those monopolies have long since vanished. Even when the monopolies are broken up the government keeps its finger on the button so that free market forces are never allowed to prevail.
There may have been some perceived reason for monopoly protection of utilities in the early days of electric grids, natural gas distribution, telephone service and the like. The investments involved were huge and the uncertainty of the outcome made them a very risky enterprise. But that doesn't explain why, after decades of use and becoming a part of every day life, the government continues to keep control.
When the Federal Communications Commission emerged, radio transmitters were huge, power sucking monsters and the frequency discrimination was so poor that it was believed that there would only be one or two stations in every market. With this in mind the doctrine of broadcasting "in the public interest" was formed to try to insure that the airwaves would never be controlled by monolithic vested interests. Can that relate to today's world where powerful, inexpensive transmitters are comparatively tiny, directional antennas are available and advertising revenues support most stations? Why does the FCC continue to regulate broadcasting when technology exists to separate stations and prevent interference? It can only be because the government refuses to give up the power to influence mass communications.
In case you think that government no longer seeks to impose and control monopolies, witness the cable television industry. There was never a good reason for government to get involved in restricting cable providers but they just couldn't resist. Anyone who complains about the size of their cable bill and the lousy service they get can thank the government agencies that prevented competition in the industry.
In 2001 California's Democrat dominated government tried to sneak some modification of the utility monopoly status quo, thinly disguised as "deregulation," into electricity production. In fact it only deregulated the purchase price of power from suppliers and not the price paid by consumers. When the predictable disaster occurred they then crowed happily about how it proved that the "free market" approach doesn't work. Unfortunately, the Republicans were too impotent to even argue the point and so the statists were able to present the failure as an indictment of all deregulation.
Despite attempts at "deregulation" the U.S. transportation system remains very monopolistic. Governments build the roads, airports, port facilities and even the railroad tracks. There is no entrepreneurial spirit, no competition to force change to new technology, no incentive to improve because bureaucracy has no interest in the future except as it applies to government funding.
The ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) has created a whole cottage industry of attempting to make every disabled person, regardless of handicap, able to do everything that can be done by every other person. Those with disability are no longer encouraged to make exceptional efforts to overcome their situation, instead the "Great Nanny" government steps in and tries to equalize everything, usually by dragging down those without disability rather than attempting the much more difficult task of raising those with handicaps.
"Political Correctness" is a socialist attempt to destroy the First Amendment by invoking the protection of some helpless minority as a reason to restrain free speech. A subset is the new affection for inveighing against the so-called "hate crimes." What is really sought is an ability for the government to demonize unpopular opinion. The whole movement is an attempt to allow an offended person to use the power of government to silence the offender.
The once solid fortress of free speech, the college campus, has become a cesspool of groups whose only reason for existence is to insure that no speech reflecting unpopular (by student or faculty standards) opinion ever sees the light of day. Socialist/statist professors are allowed to make the most outrageous statements with impunity while those in opposition are effectively muzzled.
This kind of collectivist thinking could never have produced a nation like the United States but it may well destroy it. We will soon reach the point where the bottom fifty-plus percent of workers will pay NO income taxes (they pay less than four percent today). Once that is achieved the statists will have permanent control of this nation because they will be able to apply Marxist wealth distribution with impunity. They will be taking tax money from the successful minority and giving it to the unsuccessful majority. The class war will then be over, the dependent class will have won.
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