L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 291, October 3, 2004
"The traffic jam at the spaceport was almost nonexistent"
Democracy: It's for the Dogs
Special to TLE
I wrote last week that it isn't enough to complain about taxation without representationthat we've got to insist on no taxation whatsoever instead. Why did I say this? Because: "Taxation is how politicians exploit our hard work and labor."
I want to expand on this.
My main complaint here is that our elected representatives don't represent us, but rather themselves. It couldn't be any more obvious, the way our entire political culture is driven by constant opinion polls.
Think about it. How many polling organizations are there nowadays? There's Zogby. There's Gallup. There's Marist. And then there's Rasmussen. Oh, and AP/Ipsos. And NBC, CBS, and Fox News. And that's just to name a few. As far as I can tell, there are more polling groups than sanctioning bodies in boxingand that's really saying something.
And, of course, political polling isn't an evil, in and of itself. There's no harm in simply asking folks questions and reporting their answers. To that end, I don't see a problem with it. But where we run into trouble is when we take a step back and look at the larger political picturethere, we will see these polls informing every decision every candidate for every office makes. And that's a problem.
What the public wants, politicians will promise (which is why we're actually lucky politicians break promises). After all, saying you'll "fight for" free healthcare, etc., is how you win an election. It's no secret. Politics is a contest for power. Men of principle have a place in politics like bad spellers have a place in Scrabblethere's room for them at the table, but that doesn't mean they'll win. And as for men who'd uphold the U.S. Constitution? Forget it. There's no room for them at all. As Joe Sobran put it, "the U.S. Constitution poses no serious threat to our [modern] form of government."
Now, obviously, you can make the case that politicians are just listening to the people, and giving them what they want. That would seem to be the basic idea behind democracy. But maybe therein lies the problem.
We've been taught to believe democracy is synonymous with liberty; the truth is they aren't always compatible. Democracy is based on majority-rule, which, ultimately, amounts to mob-rule. I can't hope to explain this any better than Jonah Goldberg, who wrote that, "in its purest form," democracy means "51 percent of the people can pee in the cornflakes of 49 percent of the people."
In other words, majority-rule means the rights and opinions of those in the minority can be tossed in the garbage like so many hanging chads before themall in the name of the greater whole. And when I refer to "those in the minority," I don't necessarily mean ethnic minorities, though that's certainly one example. But I am also talking about economic minorities hererich and poor alike. And I am talking about any other types of minorities you can think of. It doesn't really matter which group you choose. When I say "those in the minority," it even includes those in the majority who are forced to cater to those in the minoritywhich is where political correctness often comes in.
The point is, in our current system, politicians make whichever promises polls show will get them elected, and fulfill whichever promises polls show will keep them in office. But no matter the promise, and no matter who asks for it, it always comes at someone else's expense. Somebody somewhere is always being forced to do something they don't want to dowhether it's putting out a joint, or paying a stranger's college tuition. And meanwhile, amazingly, whoever gives away the most of your money wins.
How is this "representative" government?
Our current system is not a series of checks and balances. It is a series of offices and agencies working in tandem on local, state, and national levels. It doesn't exist just for patching up potholes. It exists for its own sake. This is why politicians redistribute wealth. Sometimes they take from the rich and give to the poor; other times they take from the poor and give to the rich. What counts is that they're taking. What counts is their whatever-it-takes-to-win attitude.
Which brings me back to taxation.
Taxation makes it all possible. Taxation lets us vote for "free" gifts from other people's pockets.
Once upon a time, there was no such thing as a Federal Reserve Note. Oh, there were forms of currency, of course, but back then folks were known to trade real things of value, too. Gold was a hot itemhard as it was to fit in one's wallet. But they could also trade services as modern in concept as medical benefits. A little less than a hundred years ago, this system was swapped for a system of credit, and a 16th Amendment was added to the Constitutionthus creating an income tax and providing our leaders with virtually unlimited funds. Everyone's owed something to someone ever since.
Not that I'm damning the idea of credit altogether. Lord knows it's keeping a roof over my head. But look at the big picture here. People no longer need to work for what they get in America. This doesn't mean there aren't any hard workers left; there are millions. But work is no longer the be-all, end-all collector of wealth. When someone wants something that someone else won't give them, they say it's "unfair" and appeal to government judges and legislators. And in exchange for votes, the government "arbitrates"i.e., "takes"on their behalf. Free lunch is served, in other words. Get it while it's hot!
We talk about democracy as if it's a safeguard for individual rights. And who knows, maybe it can be. But it isn't automatic. And that certainly isn't how it's being used. Instead, it's become our way of intruding on rights, allegedly in the name of that most collectivist of concepts: The Common Good. What it really amounts to, though, is our leaders buying our votes with our own money... or our kids' money... or our kids' kids' money. But, hey, who cares if we're running up deficits? Our money isn't worth more than the material it's printed on anyway.
It's amazing how we applaud ourselves from time to time for outlasting the Soviet Union, even as we, too, write checks we don't know if we can cash. The things we've come to depend on are artificial. Social Security won't be around forever. What happens when they pull the plug? My guess is there's going to be a lot of people with nothing better to do than to prove just how pissed off they are. Make sure you lock your doors that afternoon. Democracy won't protect you.
Look, I believe in Americans. I believe in the American Dream. This nation's provided us with some of the most brilliant minds of the last several centuries. But at the same time, I'm reminded of a story I used to hear when I was a kid. It was about a puppy who had a bone, who was very content, until one day he went walking over a bridge and saw another dog underwater. This other dog had a bone, too, you see. And the puppy decided to jump in and steal it, believing two bones were better than one. He then found it was just his reflectionjust an illusionbut by then it was too late. He ended up all wet. And his own bone sank to the bottom, forever and ever, amen.
Franklin Roosevelt was wrong. We have more to fear than fear itself. We have also to fear the fate of that puppy. I'd like to believe it's not too late to change our ways, but it's time to throw ourselves a bone here. Our current arrangement doesn't represent the rights of the people. It represents itself.
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