“One’s first step in wisdom is to question everything–and one’s last is to come to terms with everything.” ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
We spend countless hours arguing over the wisdom or stupidity of this or that decision by people in government, all the while not once thinking to question why one group of people should get God-like powers to decide what everyone else can have or deserves to have and what they can and can’t do.
Perhaps we’re afraid to ask why people in government get to decide what we do with our own property. After all, if you do pull at this thread, then you find it quickly unravels until you’re left peering into a terrifying intellectual void and not gazing up at the solid foundations of reason you assumed were there.
And that’s when it hits you. That’s when you realise what all this really is. It’s just a bunch of people stealing from your wage packet and stopping you from doing X and compelling you to do Y because The Law, our society’s moral authority, grants them the right to. Our legal code makes possible the systematic theft and coercion done by people in government to innocent people in society.
Worst of all, the faceless perpetrators have all come to firmly believe what they do to you is not morally wrong, but actually good for you. And that means convincing them to stop is nigh on impossible. They’ll dismiss your objections to how much of your earnings they steal and to what they compel you to do through legal coercion as easily as parents dismiss their children’s objections to being made to eat vegetables.
There’s a famous late 16th-century proverb that says “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” We might alter this slightly to read: the road to social ruin is paved with government action with good intentions.
“Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.” ~ Isabel Paterson.
Some might say Paterson’s is a cynical or pessimistic view of humanity, but it’s not. It’s an accurate observation based on the behaviour of people elected into government as we know it.
The system of government plunder and coercion won’t stop until it kills itself by paralysing the spontaneous system of wealth creation which is necessary for its functioning, i.e. capitalism.
“Political ideas that have dominated the public mind for decades cannot be refuted through rational arguments. They must run their course in life and cannot collapse otherwise than in great catastrophe…” ~ Ludwig von Mises
When the economic catastrophe eventually comes, the masses of the western world will be shocked. It will force the public mind, as Mises put it, to reconsider what it believed to be true about how the world works and what is social good and bad. This will be the moment the philosophy of freedom has been waiting for; the opportunity for good ideas and truth to have a fair fight with the existing bad ideas and falsehoods.
This will be a pivotal moment because the western world will either move towards liberty or further away from it, depending on whether the public mind is persuaded to lean towards libertarianism and away from authoritarianism or vice versa. It will be an opportunity for something better to emerge but also for something worse to take hold. Western civilisation will balance on a knife-edge. One way desolation, the other, salvation.
Whoever is in power at this moment will say capitalism has failed. They’ll blame freedom and say that the state must receive more funding and be permitted to become more powerful in order to prevent collapse from happening again. Statist intellectuals will agree with them, as will the many people who depend on the state entirely or to some degree. Politicians with designs on power will say ‘we’ must scrap the old chaotic freedom and design a new, fair, planned and predictable freedom. They’ll declare that ‘we’ will do it democratically and for the good of society.
If the public mind is convinced, then that will signal the arrival of a new modern form of fascism. Very few people will recognise it as participatory fascism, of course. Almost everyone will believe it is ‘democratic socialism’ and eagerly hand over to authority more responsibility for their own lives in anticipation of a better standard of living to come. But it won’t come.
“The pattern is as old as human life. The new rulers use more and more force, more police, more soldiers, trying to enforce more efficient control, trying to make the planned economy work by piling regulations on regulations, decree on decree. The people are hungry and hungrier. And how does a man on this earth get butter? Doesn’t the government give butter? But government does not produce food from the earth; Government is guns. It is one common distinction of all civilized peoples, that they give their guns to the Government. Men in Government monopolize the necessary use of force; they are not using their energies productively; they are not milking cows. To get butter, they must use guns; they have nothing else to use.” ~ Rose Wilder Lane
Can humanity break the pattern, then? Let’s be optimistic and say, maybe, yes.
There’s cause for optimism because the masses today have some crucial things our deep ancestors never had. Firstly, thanks to the Internet, everyone can learn from human history. Our ancestors couldn’t. They were always in the dark because knowledge was centralised and tightly controlled by a few. Our rulers, however, can’t stop us knowing, they can’t keep us in the dark and erase or rewrite history because the whole of human wisdom has been decentralised and is at our fingertips.
Secondly, we have a fledging system of sound digital money, which can operate entirely outside the control of rulers. That’s a big deal because governments have had total control over money for a long time now.
“Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values…” ~ Ayn Rand
“Of all contrivances for cheating the labouring classes of mankind, none has been more effective than that which deludes them with paper money.” ~ Daniel Webster
Lastly, we have a heck of a lot more to lose than our ancestors did. The world our deep ancestors’ believed to be impossible is our seemingly effortless reality. We’ve known abundance, comfort, leisure and technological wonders. We’ve tasted freedom. We know how sweet life is when people are free to act and free markets are functioning. And because we know how good it feels to have it, we can imagine how awful it would feel to lose it.
“There is a word sweeter than mother, home or heaven. That word is liberty.” ~ Matilda Joslyn Gage.