"It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." ~ H.L. Mencken
Could the Non-Aggression Principle Stop the Sixth Great Extinction? Part 2
Column by Glen Allport.
Exclusive to STR
[Part 2 of a five-part series]
How the Idea of Civil Society was Destroyed
In the second half of the 1800s, the nascent civil society in the United States, with its classical liberal worldview – including the understanding that society should embody both liberty and compassion – began giving way to the modern Left and Right. Lack of compassion (or widespread emotional damage, if you prefer) and the continued use of aggression, in and out of government, meant that the trend toward civil society in America was delicate to start with. Adoption of the Constitution was a serious blow in this regard, creating as it did a glowing ember of central, coercive authority which grew into the raging tyranny we now seek, vainly, to bring under control.
This dramatic and toxic growth of the State did not happen by accident. The ongoing triumph of the coercive elite has been, first, to implant in the public mind a corrupted version of the Non-Aggression Principle, one that only applies to the little people. Expressed as it might be written for an Eleventh Commandment (which is certainly how the establishment treats it), this version might read: "Thou shalt not aggress against others, unless thou worketh for the State."
Second, this corrupted NAP was supported by shrewdly recasting the two elements of the Golden Rule as opposing each other and forever at war. Love and freedom were no longer seen as the mutually supportive qualities that they are, but rather as competing forces engaged in a zero-sum struggle.
Those two epic misunderstandings underpin the toxic paradigm of political Left and Right. Under the new Commandment, both Left and Right are granted use of State aggression in service of their goals.
Indeed, the State is nothing but aggression; it is an institution based on force, threats of force, and fraud. Try saying "no" to the State at any level and watch the aggression harden from "violence in a latent state" (as classical liberal Auberon Herbert put it) to actual violence administered by "big men with guns." America's founding generation understood this, but not well enough. George Washington famously pointed out that "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master." Still, Washington was a believer in coercive government, as long as it was small and "restrained."
Well, we've seen how THAT worked out.
The Left/Right political paradigm inevitably leads to tyranny because both sides embrace aggression in service of their goals, and because each side over-emphasizes one half of the Love and Freedom duality – always a dangerous path.
In theory, the Left focuses on compassion; the Right on limited government – on "restrained aggression," in other words, rather than on non-aggression. But, even aside from the aggression involved, neither Left nor Right can ever be a healthy whole by itself, because both love and freedom are equally necessary. Like a deprived child who grows into an adult who can never get enough,* the public is constantly dissatisfied with the results of political action and so always wants more. This is partly because government policies and programs do the opposite of their stated aims and partly because any action that leads to over-emphasis of one side of the Duality while under-serving the other must create imbalance and lead to discontent.
* . . . never enough of money, sex, power, or whatever, because the person never got enough of what they really needed (love, for the most part) in childhood – and getting it now, as an adult, does nothing to erase the trauma of that early deprivation. Developmental needs can only be met at the time they naturally occur.
The fundamental error of the Left/Right scheme thus ensures that the goals of the participants will expand (because what's been done already is never enough, for one thing) and that the aggression used in service of those expanding goals will continually break restraints that had earlier seemed inviolable.
We see those results all around us, with the Non-Aggression Principle replaced by an ever-larger and ever-more aggressive State and with natural compassion and charity replaced with coercively-funded State programs and coercively-enforced prohibitions and commandments. This expanding empire of aggression claims to be for the people's benefit but instead serves the State and its client corporations and interest groups; civil society shrinks and withers in the process. Meanwhile, the elite continue to push the toxic Left/Right paradigm, which herds the public into artificial groups at war with each other, each side over-emphasizing one part of the Duality and enraged at those who over-emphasize the other.
The power elite and their corporate media ignore, slander, and otherwise marginalize any person, group, or influence that threatens this destructive mind-game. The media's frequent and often breath-taking mis-treatment of Ron Paul, the only congressman to have consistently and for decades opposed unconstitutional use of power (including our many wars and occupations) and tax money and who has single-handedly made the Federal Reserve an issue in American politics, is only the most obvious and blatant example. Paul has actually been left out of poll results after winning the poll in question; his name has been left off lists of campaign fund-raising results even when he was at or near the top of the field. If you want to know how terrified the power elite are of the truth and how far they are willing to go to hide or obscure that truth, watch the media's handling of Dr. Paul. (For a brief, sensible look at Dr. Paul versus his GOP competitors for the nomination, see Sizing up the GOP field: Ron Paul is the likely nominee*; for Paul's first campaign television ad of the race – and a rousingly good one – see here. Abolitionists and voluntaryists will wince at both links because Dr. Paul is a constitutionalist, but I – an abolitionist and voluntaryist – believe that change has to begin somewhere, and Paul is a HUGE change in the right direction over what we have now. Anyone who expects a voluntaryist society to instantly emerge without any process leading to that point is not thinking clearly).
* No, I don't think Paul will actually BE the nominee; if he is, I don't think he'll win the election; if he does win, I don't think he'll be allowed to dismantle any of the tyranny we now suffer under. Call me a pessimist – I am, actually – but I think we're long past the point where the power elite would allow any such thing. Without going into detail, I'll just say that if Paul overcomes the media's attempts to marginalize his campaign, I fear for his safety.
A third element was needed for the destruction of civil society in the United States, and for creation of the aggressive tyranny designed to replace it: funding for the entire, costly enterprise; a mechanism to channel money and power from the American people to the coercive elite.
The Constitution required our money to be only gold and silver – preventing the funding of tyranny by fiat currencies – and prohibited any tax on income. In 1913, however, those critical restrictions were overcome. The aggression used for funding the State was amplified exponentially with a pair of stunningly un-American tools: a national income tax and creation of a fiat-currency-creating central bank, backed up with legal tender laws requiring use of the phony money. Together, after less than ten decades, those tools have sucked up nearly all the wealth created by the American people in the past century (mainstream America is broke), plus the wealth created and bequeathed to us by earlier generations, plus the wealth of future generations, which has been encumbered by a debt (most of it hidden with dishonest accounting) beyond payment and almost beyond belief. This stolen wealth has replaced civil society in America with an aggressive empire abroad and a shockingly blunt police state here at home, enriching the power elite every step of the way.
Next in this series: A World-Killing Paradigm Shift