L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 326, July 3, 2005
"Hands Off My Home!"
Exclusive to TLE
The events of the last few weeks have been an emotional whirlwind. Supreme Court rulings that are as mystifying in their origins (as in, "Where the heck did that reasoning come from?") as they are contradictory in their application. Pompous pronouncements from our "elected representatives" in Congress, especially in the Senate. An administration that seems divorced from reality. What are these people thinking? They were clever and shameless enough to claw their way to top positions; could they really be that unintelligent?
Well, sort of.
One of my favorite books is The Vision of the Anointed (Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy) by Thomas Sowell. While the conservative Sowell targets liberals in this work, it can apply equally well to conservatives. His premise is that the Anointed are the self-appointed ruling class, whether one calls them the intelligentsia or the elites or "those stinking parasites in Washington." They pursue their agendas for the purpose of feeling good about themselves, not for any positive results that may come from their actions. An example Sowell uses is that the Anointed "adopt" groups disfavored by the bulk of the population, such as criminals, in order to show their superior tolerance, etc. An example he didn't use might be how the conservative Anointed justify the Drug War, despite its negative consequences, to feel "morally" superior. Or the Iraq War, where U.S. troops are often put in the position of having to "destroy the village in order to save it." (For those readers who take things literally, that last was an analogy. We're not repeating the Vietnam experience; we're finding entirely new ways to screw up. Who said the spirit of American innovation was dead?)
The point is that this insight can be used to explain much of the weird behavior of the political class recently. A column in the June 29 edition of Opinion Journal (WSJ Online) by Peggy Noonan wondered why it is that politicians, particularly those in Congress, are so full of themselves, so prone to egotism. She used examples from Barak Obama, Bill Frist, and the Supreme Court, quoting their wildly inflated self-congratulatory comments; Obama comparing himself favorably to Lincoln (remember, these people like Lincoln, which is another strike against them), Frist bragging what an impressive, saintly person he is, and the Supremes for general hubris. Oh, and of course, she dumped on the Clintons as well. Why not? I seldom turn down the opportunity to shoot fish in barrels, either.
Congress, the Administration and the regulatory agencies, the Supreme Court (and other federal courts) and all the rest of the bureaucratic Kafkaesque nightmare we are suffering through are so full of themselves that I often wonder how many of them have tried to order the tide to stop coming in. Hubris only begins to cover the ego these people display. Some of it is understandable: they have achieved positions of personal, physical power that ancient kings could only dream of. Due to the nature of most of our fellow citizens, many of these Anointed also have a large measure of emotional power, with the ability to draw large crowds of screaming admirers. Heady stuff, indeed.
We've all heard of examples from history and art of how hubris goeth before the fall. Can it be that we have reached that point in America? If not, we're very close.
That Congress is a joke has been well-known to libertarians for quite some time. But I'm hearing more and more "mainstream" people recite the litany of indictments against the 535 best reasons for early and permanent retirement I've seen in a while. They are spineless, petty bloviators, seemingly incapable of noticing that they are fast becoming irrelevant, with the Executive and Judicial branches taking more and more of their powers away. Or, more accurately, accepting those that Congress has abdicated through inaction or cowardice. Vote on a declaration of war? Not when you can vote unconstitutional powers to the president. Pass laws that say exactly what Congress means to have done? Not when you can pass vague laws that have to be interpreted by the courts. In each case, and dozens of others, Congress wants to let others take the heat for something that some part of the voting public might not like, while they lie about how that result wasn't their intention. (In Vision, Sowell notes that the Anointed do not care what the results of their policies are; the important point is that they feel good about those policies. They ignore empirical evidence that conflicts with their vision, because it must be wrongbecause it conflicts with their vision!)
The Administration is spinning events in Iraq and the Middle East faster than the uranium centrifuges the Iraqis didn't, after all, actually possess. The activities of Homeland Security, the TSA, FBI, CIA, etc., in regard to preventing terrorism seem to be on a par with the joke about the alligator repelling charm. Growing up in Maryland, my father had a keychain with an odd-looking charm on it. He would tell gullible children that it kept alligator away. And when someone would point out that there were no alligators in Maryland, he would say, "See how good it works?" I really doubt that the humiliating crap we must endure in order to board an airplane has helped prevent a terrorist attack. Nor do I think that the odious PATRIOT Act has added to our security. But the Bushites know that they understand the "threat" better than we do, and despite lack of evidence that anything they have done has had a positive effect (from the perspective of the ruled, not the rulers), they feel good about "doing something" about terrorism.
And, of course, the Supremes. In the case of Kelo v. New London, the five who formed the majority decided that the plain language and intent of the Fifth Amendment was wrong, and that it should be left to the states to regulate takings of private property. Oddly enough, even though the Constitution makes no mention of the power of the federal government to dictate what substances people ingest, these same five, plus the "strict constructionist" Scalia, said that the states cannot decide about medicinal marijuana. The confusion about the "intent" of Ten Commandment displays shows that the Court is not about interpreting the Constitution at all, but about playing to the crowd. They are stroking their own egos with rulings that fit their personal tastes and prejudices. They are behaving like ...Anointed. They are ruled by their egos, not by reason.
Now comes the part where I tell you that all is not lost. Because I believe that we have an opportunity here and now. We have a conjunction of three powerful emotions: fear, hatred, and contempt. We fear what the government can do to us. They can deprive us of life, liberty and property. We hate them for having that power, for acting like they are "better" than we are, which goes against the American ideal of equality before the law (whether it was ever true or not is irrelevantit's an ideal). And we ridicule them for their hubris, their comic-opera self-importance, and their cluelessness about so much that make up our daily lives.
No ruler can continue once he becomes a laughingstock. If it was only hate and fear, they would be secure in their positions of power. If we can pull away the curtain, expose them for the pompous, real-world-incompetent parasites they are, we have a chance to regain our freedom. Make fun of them! The Supremes are not the Bastards in Black; they are superannuated Harry Potter wannabes in black robes. Congresscritters are merely the pigs that got to the trough first and crowded the rest of the barnyard out. The Administration? EasyPinky and the Brain.
Laugh at them! Protests must emphasize ridicule, not anger. They can accept fear or hatred, but their egos cannot abide derision and contempt. The Supremes are not so much evil (although the results of their rulings are evil) as they are senile old coots, pandering desperately for approval of the rest of the Anointed. The Soviet Union collapsed when the people no longer feared their rulers, but rather saw them for the paper tigers they were. The Shah of Iran was overthrown when the Iranians no longer feared his version of Homeland Security.
Laugh at them! Burst their over-inflated egos like the gaudy balloons they resemble. Make fun of the incompetents, the pompous fools, the Anointed. Pull away the curtain and free yourselves from fear. We do not need them to run our lives for us. Libertarians have known this for a long time. Now is our opportunity to wake others from the long nightmare of dependency on the Anointed, those ego-driven clowns who simply do not care what happens to us, as long as they can milk, shear and slaughter us when it suits their purposes.
Laugh at them!