"An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation." ~ John Marshall
Libertarians and the S Words
Libertarians rail about government ' 'Look how it has failed. Look how it robs and murders' ' but they miss an important point. Lay bare government's intentions and they're as pure as silk, according to conventional morality. It's okay to blow up Iraqi children as long as we force-feed their parents neocon democracy. Government means well, dammit. What can libertarians say about what they mean? Oh, I know ' libertarians excel in pristine motives; they want all people to be free and respect the freedom of others. But in truth that's a tissue-thin cover for selfishness. And who has the guts to stand up for that? With everything we hear about the virtue of herd action, who could believe this society reached spectacular heights of prosperity with individual s pursuing their own 'narrow' interests? The U.S. of A. was founded on the supreme principle of sacrifice, according to PC (politically collective) mythology -- on the subordination of the individual to the Greater Good, which for our convenience is embodied in the State. That's the very reason Hamilton and his pals chucked the Articles of Confederation for the U.S. Constitution, to make collecting burnt offerings easier.  Like stern parents with benign hearts, today's gods of the Potomac are merely preserving an American tradition. Why can't libertarians see this? Individuals are to the state what cattle are to the slaughterhouse ' by moral design. The sacrifice isn't an unfortunate necessity, it's an expression of our 'noblest' virtue. If there aren't enough wars to keep American youth busy, then send them to clean up the parks or police the ghettos ' send them anywhere, but make them serve the State.  Americans are too 'me' oriented, we're told. It's the State's role to cleanse them with the ointment of humility and sacrifice. Get the State's schools to make community service a requirement for advancement. Conscript those who drop out. Make an example of intransigents. Of course, libertarians reject conscripted service as a violation of rights. But how many stand up for selfishness? I can see them cringing. Libertarians will win a lot of battles without challenging the 'ideal' of sacrifice, but they'll never win the war. Some libertarians do admit that what they're advancing is a morality friendly to self-interest, but to come out screaming for selfishness would be idiotic and self-defeating. Sacrifice is too well entrenched to uproot directly. Make men free, and they'll see the benefits of dealing with others as political equals. They'll still be free to genuflect, but it'll be their decision. The public struggles hard enough with the libertarian idea of laissez-faire, they say. Why beat them to death with prickly moral implications? While this may be true for most of the public, there are many voiceless individuals who want more than a letter to the editor to protest government's orgy of sacrifice. The long-suffering taxpayers are ready to dump King George's tea in the harbor. Why the blazes are they forced to pay for the destruction of a country that didn't have us in its crosshairs, then pay for the massive rebuilding on top of that, never mind the loss of life involved? When local communities around the country are rejecting socialistic proposals from state governments,  on what grounds do their so-called representatives in Washington saddle them with an astronomically expensive and destructive prescription drug program? Government gets away with these things because they dump them on us with high-sounding rhetoric, which is only State-speak for sacrifice. The public desperately needs voices to defend their self-interest. With a likely dollar crisis on the horizon,  they'll be ready to hang the next politician who preaches the blessings of austerity and self-denial. The average Joe is looking for moral reasons to stand tall, as a man whose life is his own, not cannon fodder for the 'virtuous' crusades of others. Libertarians fear the average person can't break with his state-indoctrinated past. While encouraged to be all they can be, citizens are intimidated from wandering outside certain officially approved circles, lest they stumble onto the path of insurrection and anarchy. Trust us to take control of your political life, says the state; we're not perfect, but we're trying and we have your best interests at heart. In fact, the official circles are presented as boundless territories with no reality outside them. It's only the whacko libertarians with their delusions of freedom who insist that there is. Here's where ideological maintenance plays a critical role. The media accepts government action as a fact of nature, like molten lava oozing through a village, a terrible tragedy, but not subject to moral judgment. In exchange for the blinders, the newsies get a chance to embed themselves in the State's wars or share in a few of its extravaganzas, especially around election time. They aren't about to cast a critical eye on an institution that has unmatched power to make war and loot its citizens. Besides, these are public officials working selflessly for the good of the country, their motives unsoiled by any concern for profit. On the other hand, business people, though they contort their language to deny it, are after bigger bucks all the time. They too aren't judged, in the sense of weighing their actions ' they're a priori guilty. If sacrifice is the ideal, pursuing profit is one notch below infanticide. The Martha Stewarts of this world always need a good whupping,  not servants of the people like our benefactors in D.C. If you don't believe it, visit a State school sometime. The barriers are formidable, but not insuperable. Selfishness properly understood promotes prosperity and good will among people. Libertarians who share this conviction and can present it effectively will find audiences hungry to hear it.
1 Trask, H. A. Scott, "Rethinking the Articles of Confederation" 2 Paul, Ron Rep., "Conscription is Collectivism," Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk 3 "Alabama Voters Reject Record Tax Hike," September 9, 2003 4 Guru, the Mogambo, "Weep for America," The Daily Reckoning, Dec. 8, 2003 5 Ostrowski, James, "What's Wrong With Juries?"