The most common accusation thrown at people who do not vote is that they are apathetic. That might be true of some or even most non-voters for all I know, but it’s not true of me. About five years ago I started to take a deeper interest in politics and social issues. Since then I’ve spent something in the region of 5,000 hours gaining a much deeper understanding of the relationship between the State and economy and the State and morality.
I’m not special or particularly intelligent. Perhaps I possess a little more curiosity than others and perhaps I’m less resistant to changing my convictions based on superior reason and evidence, but anyone could do the same as I have done over the last five years if they wanted to. But let’s face it, most people don’t want to spend several hours a day and their entire weekends reading, thinking and writing about this kind of stuff, and who can blame them, but they do want to be a good person in a good society and might even be prepared to listen to someone like me. Some people, however, don’t want to think. Period. And actively resist doing so. Ignorance is forgivable in a human being, but refusing to use your reasoning mind – that which sets us apart from animals – is not in my view. People who do this can have no complaints about the lives they get as a result. but they will, of course.
The last five years for me has been a self-directed education and intellectual liberation achieved through the Internet. Because I’ve been free to wander down any intellectual path that took my fancy I’ve been exposed to and able to explore non-mainstream schools of economic and philosophical thought that I most probably wouldn’t be exposed to if I were to return to study at a university. State education tends to lead people down the same safe and reaffirming intellectual paths when it comes to subjects like political philosophy because for people in its employ to confront coherent arguments against the morality of the State is a very uncomfortable experience – which is why it so rarely happens.
Most people miscomprehend the relationship between society and the State and the State and morality. Actually, most people seem to think society and the State are the same thing, and that morality is a product of the State. Society is where all the good stuff happens; it’s where peaceful and voluntary economic exchanges and free associations create wealth and everything we value in our lives.
The State is coercion. It is force. It is nothing more than that. That’s the only tool at its disposal. It cannot and does not create wealth or any value; it cannot grow the economy. The best it can do is enlarge one area of the economy at the expense of the shrinking of another by coercively redistributing the wealth we create in society. Every million the government redirects somewhere is a million that would have been spent somewhere else, and we can’t know for sure which way would have resulted in more jobs, products or services being created as a result. It is absolutely crucial to remember this when election time rolls around.
Only a couple of centuries ago the State was seen by the common man as nothing more than the necessary apparatus to protect people’s property rights and resolve conflicts. That was it. My how times have changed. In the blink of a cosmic eye the common man now believes it is the State’s duty to: provide housing, jobs, medical care, education, roads, childcare, funding to raise children, funding for retirement, financial assistance to people who want to buy houses, to manage people’s health for them, to stop children smoking, etc etc etc. Worse still, the common man believes that they State can provide all this – and indefinitely. What a curious thing to expect of an institution that has no money of its own, zilch, and which doesn’t actually produce anything that people value enough to exchange money for.
Politicians, of course, do nothing to dissuade the common man from believing this. In fact they positively encourage the delusion. It’s enormously beneficial for them to have us believe that the State can provide us with everything we need and want, forever – and for free! What’s most disconcerting is that many politicians today seem to believe this of the State themselves. The torturer who is harming you for his own gain will stop once he gets what he wants from you, but the torturer who sincerely wants to help you and believes that he is benefiting you by torturing you will never stop.
The more politicians believe they can provide for you via the coercive apparatus of the State the more they will have to take from you in taxes and stealth taxes like inflation. They might shout “ta-da!” and flamboyantly present you with a shiny pound which they pull from your ear as fireworks erupt all around you, but later you’ll discover that they took £10 from your wallet in order to pay for their magicians’ outfit and the pyrotechnics – or that the credit card bill for them is in your name.
Superficial, uncritical thinking about the relationship between State and economy and State and morality is insufficient and leaves one unable to recognise that any given current economic or social problem you believe government action will solve or alleviate is actually the result of government control of the economy, or else was caused by any one of countless previous government attempts to ‘fix’ or ‘improve’ society – which as laws linger and prevent their solving or alleviating.
This general election I am being asked to pick which political party will do the best job of fixing and improving the economy and society, but I now understand why this request is meaningless. All attempts to increase prosperity and make the world a better place using the coercive apparatus of the State can only benefit some by making others worse off in the short-term – and will only make us all worse off in the long-run.
Government control of the money/credit supply and interest rates, and its coercive interventions into the private economic exchanges of individuals is why our money consistently buys us less over time – and is the root cause of the economic instability of booms and busts. The welfare State creates a permanent underclass and the minimum wage creates permanent unemployment. If you don’t want to take my word for it, which you shouldn’t, then you’ll have to do your own research. If you do, then I think you’ll reach essentially the same conclusions.
If you really want to vote, then you should think of the general election in these terms: which party is going to do the least harm to society? Because that’s essentially what it comes down to. No party is going to do what is necessary to deal with the State deficit and State debt. Why? Because it would require cutting State spending by probably something like 30 to 40%. Suggesting this in today’s political climate would be like suggesting we all eat the brains of new born babies.
Consider how ferociously resistant much of the British public and media has been to Conservative ‘austerity’ over the past five years, the greatest achievement of which has been to reduce the amount by which the government overspends each month by a couple of percentage points, and you realise just how nonsensical arguments against Conservative austerity are. In just a five-year period of supposed brutal public spending cuts the coalition government has added more to the national debt than the previous government did in 13 years. Imagine, then, what’s going to happen to the size of the national debt when the party that promises to restore and even increase government spending comes to power.
No political party today would ever dream of cutting government spending by anywhere near the amount required because doing so would leave goodness knows how many people without the means to feed the children they only had because previous government benefits meant they could afford to – and probably without homes to live in. It would also forcibly eject tens of thousands of well-paid public sector works out into an already stagnant job market.
It may not even be legally possible for a government to cut spending by the amount required, for all I know. I’m sure any attempts would be legally challenged at least on the grounds of Human Rights violations or some such. Thus the one thing any government would need to do to avoid a much more significant drop in everyone’s standard of living in the coming decades is the one thing they are least likely to do, or that may even be impossible to do.
I will not be voting because at most all it can do is to potentially provide the most minor of short-term financial alleviations. It cannot, however, alter the course of our Titanic economy such that it is not going to hit that iceberg looming ever larger on the horizon. We can’t build peaceful and prosperous societies through the State. Human progress doesn’t happen through States and Empires – they shatter and halt its progress – it happens despite them; it happens quietly all around them. The best chance of achieving lasting peace and prosperity is through societies built on a foundation of individual liberty as the highest political ideal. We currently don’t have these, but we may find ourselves much closer to realising some once States have severely contracted in size. There is hope.