THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 571, May 23, 2010
"The old order is clearly dying and a bright,
raucous, energetic new disorder
being born as we watch."
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
I suggest you try a simple social experiment.
Go to your friends and ask them why we have public schools. Or public roads. Or the military. Or any other supposed public good.
If they admit ignorance, ask them to think on the subject for a moment and then give you a logical reason. I submit that you will get one of two general responses, regardless of the issue in question, and that the response you get will tell you instantly whether the person is generally libertarian, or generally statist.
A statist will think on the subject for a moment, and then reply that there must have been a need in society which was not being filled, and that the government stepped in to fill that need. A libertarian will reply that the government usurped the proper purview of the private sector in order to expand its own authority.
For instance, the statist will tell you that at some point in the past, children were not getting educated. Instead they were being left ignorant and idle, and that the state recognized this as a serious threat to the future of the nation and so stepped in and established proper schooling in order to address the problem.
The reality of course, is exactly the opposite. I wrote as much in a three part essay I published several years ago entitled Educating the Children. The true history of education is one where people were being well and inexpensively educated, and only after witnessing the molding and controlling effects of the Prussian education system did American elites set on a path of establishing compulsory public education. This is very clear in their writings at the time, which describe exactly their aims with regards to education. John D. Rockefeller claimed that,
And of course there was Benjamin Rush,
"Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property. Let him be taught to love his family, but let him be taught at the same time that he must forsake and even forget them when the welfare of his country requires it."
Unfortunately, we could play this game all day, but I think the point is summed up best by German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a key influence on the system, who said, "The schools must fashion the person, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will."
Which appears, at least for the most part, to have worked. Of course, even their argument makes no logical sense. If children were so ignorant, how did they grow up to become adults who realized the need for public education? If instead, they were already educated and intelligent, prior to the establishment of compulsory education, then why was it needed to begin with?
The same is also true of the roads. Roads were initially hunting trails or common paths privately owned or kept, and maintained either by those who traveled upon them, or those through whose land they passed. They existed specifically so that commerce, communication, and private travel could be conducted. It was only when the state later recognized their usefulness as means of fast and effective military transport that they became the "King's Roads" and were then wholly seized and operated by the state.
So why do people come to exactly the wrong conclusion? It is because they lack a working understanding of the true nature of the state. They are beginning with the erroneous assumption that the state is a benevolent force which has only our collected best interests in mind, and proceed from there when determining the motivations for state action. And so, based on that false assumption, they construct elaborate fantasies wherein the state came charging to the rescue in the midst of some imagined crisis.
But the libertarian understands the true nature of statism. The state is a cancer. It begins small and seemingly weak, but it always spreads and corrupts healthy tissue until all of society has become diseased. It then overpowers the immune system of the society contained within whatever semblance of free markets and personal property rights the society observes, and causes complete social collapse. This process is both demonstrable in history, and inevitable in the future.
And so, armed with this understanding, the libertarian is able to grasp the true origins of public institutions intuitively, even in those areas with which he is not intimately knowledgeable. You don't have to crack a history book to guess that the state licenses media outlets, not to protect the population from false histories and firebrands, but specifically to control both the content and the context of the information the public is allowed access to. This is a necessary step in creating a self perpetuating system wherein the slaves create, completely on their own, justifications for their own enslavement. In his classic essay The Anatomy of the State Murray Rothbard describes this process perfectly when he writes,
It is of course, no surprise to the libertarian then that the state would demand licensing for media outlets. The message is clear. Speak only that which we approve, or lose the ability to speak at all. Similarly, the government has restricted the access of historians to government documents, redacted or censored those documents they have released, and controlled access to important state personnel. The statist would create a justification for this by saying that the government has a vested interest in preventing the spread of falsehoods. The libertarian knows that the government truly wishes to prevent the spread of truth.
Similarly, while the statist assumes that anti-monopoly legislation exists to protect us from so called "robber-barons," the libertarian understands that in a free market the only way to create a monopoly is to consistently offer the best product at the best price, and even then monopolies in a free market are short lived as there are always new entrepreneurs and new advances in technology creating opportunities for competition. While the statist fears the exploitation of the "robber-barons," the libertarian understands that the only reason people would work for them is because they offer the highest wage, and the only reason people would buy from them is because they offer the lowest cost. Any other arrangement of costs and wages would drive their customers and their labor to their competitors. And so we see quite clearly that anti-monopolistic legislation exists to restrain competition, not to encourage it.
Military? For defense of course, regardless of the number of aggressive wars or the number of times it has been turned against Americans themselves, for not paying their taxes maybe. Postal service? Why, no one was able to communicate before the USPS, certainly you don't oppose open communication do you? And the masses will present fairy tale after fairy tale, never questioning the logic of their arguments.
This is the battle we face. This is the perniciousness of our enemy the state. They planned it all in advance. They seized the schools. They control the media. They promote the history they want us to believe. So that in the end, they need not be there every hour of every day controlling the thoughts and minds of the people. Instead, those people will create out of whole cloth a perfect defense for their chains and shackles. They will look upon you, the person crying out for freedom, and wonder what it is that you don't get.
So what can you do? Well, I have given up on arguing with these people. Instead, I take a two pronged approach.
First, I learn from the statists, and focus on the young. With all due respect to our older brothers in chains, in my experience people over about forty-five years old are so emotionally invested in the system that even when you show them the truth, they can't bring themselves to accept it. I devote my time on those people I think I can make gains with.
Second, I learn from Socrates. I don't present conclusions, and I don't tell them how wrong they are. I ask questions. I try to lead them through their own arguments, which begin to erode as soon as they are exposed to the light of reason. If they are honest, then they will begin to question themselves. If they are dishonest, then move on to someone you can make gains with.
What do you think the government needs to give us that the free market can not? Why can the free market not supply that good or service? What promises would you require to purchase that good on the free market? If you feel that the government must supply that good, then why must I pay for it against my will? If it is a need, then wouldn't I pay for it voluntarily, just as I do my phone, utilities, housing, food, and other expenses? If I would not pay for it, then how can you justify it as a need of mine, when I do not see it as one myself?
The questions are simple, as is the goal. To get others to think for themselves, if they can, and to determine where you are wasting your resources, if they can not. This is the only path I can see to a free world.
And that should be our ultimate goal. So that someday, we will live in a world where the question "why do governments do x" will always elicit the same answer.
Because governments are evil.