THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 359, March 19, 2006
Thoughts on Political Reform and Human Nature
Special to TLE
Windy City columnist Charlie Madigan of the Chicago Tribune quotes a Pew opinion survey in his column this week that says that around half the American electorate think that most members of congress take bribes. However the stunning postscript to this bit of popular cynicism is that around half thinks that it's OK too! If Mr. or Ms. Congressperson is supportive of their pet issues and brings home some federal pork chops now and again, then just screw integrity and all that other stuff!
So much for reforming the political process and getting back to the idyllic form of statecraft meant for us by our Founders eh? That is the thing about statism; as history has shown us repeatedly it isn't that that there aren't people of integrity out there willing and able to serve. No that isn't it. There are many. The problem comes from the sheer size of the modern Leviathanic State. That is the true lesson of the Abramoff scandal too, by the way.
The state today is so big and so comprehensive that it can be a very lucrative undertaking just breaking off a few crumbs of the big Washington Sugar Cookie and then stealing away unnoticed. With a budget of nearly three trillion dollars per annum slick operators inside the Congress, the state legislatures and city halls only need scrape off a few small chunks to benefit the well-connected whose interests they serve. And so they do every fookin' chance they get. As I've written before the sheer size and scope of today's modern state makes this an irresistible temptation to the political classes and their parasites.
Think about it. What possible fookin' reason do the distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the United States Congress have to involve themselves in such administrative trivia as deciding where a Native American tribe builds a casino or the placement of Alaskan bridges and all the other stuff they obsess over? No reason really, they just wanna get re-elected, Democrats and Republicans alike. And I hate to break it to certain Libertarian Party members out there, but if LP candidates ever do start getting elected to office in substantial numbers, human nature being what it is, I would expect the same sort of shenanigans from them too eventually. The sad thing is that history bears me out on this. Reformers topple the Old Guard but in time become a new Old Guard themselves. And so it goes.
"The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern", said Lord Acton, "every class is unfit to govern." For every Representative like Ron Paul you get two like Randy Cunningham or Tom DeLay. They hate taxes, red tape, and wanna get Leviathan off your back. Then they vote for more money for numerous and sundry federal white elephants and boondoggles. Got to go along to get along ya' know. Or so these sorts rationalize their conduct to us. "If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power," said Mikhail Bakunin, "within a year he would be worse than the Czar himself." That sentiment certainly has an aroma of truth about it, no?
America's longest serving US Senator, the late Strom Thurmond put this kind of silly reformist idealism into focus for us all when he said that he was for term limits and intended to seek re-election until they were adopted! Well, he served nine six-year terms (that's 54 fookin' years) and still never made it happen. There is the lesson for us all, and especially for the reformists out there. Which is that you can put lipstick on a pig to make it more attractive to the gullible, but that doesn't really change what it is.
"Remembering the experience of the Spanish libertarians, and heeding the advice of John Galt" says anarchist scholar Lance Klafta, "libertarians must refuse state power even when begged. The state can never be a tool of liberation. Only its complete and utter collapse will allow for the emergence of non-statist institutions, libertarian co-ops, communes, and free markets, to flourish and displace the political state once and for all." I couldn't have put it better.