"It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder." ~ Frederic Bastiat
Government Belief Is Suicide
Column by Alex R. Knight III.
Exclusive to STR
During my sojourn as an undergraduate student, I had the pleasure of studying under the tutelage of a fine poet. Ben was a likeable enough guy: Literary, musical, humorous, and easy to work with. My study project title that semester was The Craft of Poetry, and so I read and wrote lots of both, which was also agreeable enough.
But during our in-class discussions at weekend residencies, the topic would often turn to politics and philosophy, and it was then I learned that Ben was a socialist. And an ardent one. Beginning around 2004, he had been on the electoral ballot in Vermont a number of times, variously as a candidate for U.S. Senate, state senate, and governor, on either a socialist or Liberty Union (what difference?) ticket.
Predictably, this led to a lot of sparring. The situation was in no way aided by the fact that an absolutely execrable individual, who shall remain nameless here, was also a student in that class, and whose Marxist views were perhaps even more pronounced – if such a thing were even possible – than Ben’s.
It was a volatile time. My drinking was certainly no assistance in this respect, either. I had a meltdown of sorts when the unmentionable person above finally succeeded in pissing me off past the boiling point. Did I say meltdown? A verbal explosion was more like it. This was in class, mind you, and while it heralded a life-long bitter animus against an absolutely sworn enemy in Mr. Antagonism – about which I still and never will make any apologies whatsoever -- Ben and I somehow managed to stay on good terms. For a while.
After that semester ended, our discussion continued on Facebook. I walked him through the Non-Aggression Principle and Voluntaryism – how it had applied, even in the aforementioned case of a loud and venomous temporary lack of self-control, since there was no physical violence – non-defensive or otherwise. We talked about voluntary interaction versus government coercion. In all cases, though he conceded frequently that I’d made a good case, he continued to extol social democracy and Marxian economics as the highest of virtues.
Looking back, I probably should’ve recognized Ben’s cognitive dissonance for what it was, and let it go at that. He also had a fair degree of inherited prejudice as well: Reputedly, a grandmother of his, who’d worked for the U.S. Postal Service during the McCarthy era, had been investigated for her own socialist views, and possible ties to communist organizations. But alcoholics can become both abundantly self-righteous and obsessive at times, and I had in any case not yet come to this conclusion. So I pushed things. I pushed for an admission from him as to the untenable and inconsistent nature of his statist socialist views. And as a result, instead, Ben eventually blocked me from his Facebook profile. And that was pretty much that.
Until I recently came across this webpage. Please give it a good read before you return here.
Leftists of all stripes are famously enamored of bashing corporations and “corporatocracy,” and with some great measure of justification. Where they fail grossly in connecting the dots is to not heap equal or greater blame on government – since of course corporations are nothing but government constructs, and would not even exist as such otherwise. Just as any “state” is a complete legal fiction, so too are corporations. Observe that the Latin etymological root corpus means “of the body,” and that to “incorporate” something – like a “town,” “city,” “state,” or other fictitious entity – is to attempt or purport to make it corporeal – to allegedly give tangible substance to that which had none such beforehand.
VSAC (Vermont Student Assistance Corporation) is just such an entity – a Vermont government construct, courtesy of the legislature. It does not even pretend to be a private entity, any more than does or can the aforementioned U.S. Postal Service. And it is correspondingly quite vicious, as Ben’s webpage (made possible by at least quasi-free market activity, not socialism, incidentally) makes perfectly clear. Private lending institutions must first seek recourse through judicial channels before wages can be seized, liens imposed, etc. These are, at present, admittedly government monopolies, but their intervention must at least first be solicited when two private parties are at dispute. In the case of a government monstrosity like VSAC, the judiciary powers, it would appear, are already presumed to a large degree – similar to the way the IRS, or other government money-collecting schemes operate with near-total impunity.
Ben long ago bought into the idea that government – so long as it is a democratically elected one – is a good and benign idea. That it can protect, safeguard, provide for, and “empower” those under its yoke. That while there may be abuses, these are largely because the “right people” have not been elected, and socialist goals have not been advanced with sufficient zealotry to make the mechanisms of government function the way they should.
And now, to be perfectly blunt about it, this sad rhetoric has come to bite him in the ass. Hard. The devil is literally demanding his paycheck, and will not stop aggressing until he has received it, and women and children be damned.
There are those, I realize, who, Darwinistically, feel that this is but a turn of natural justice – that Ben is reaping what he has sown. I can’t argue with that. And if I were entirely of the same cynical and gloating mindset I was back when I drank, I might make this a most enthusiastic opportunity for I Told You So.
But that’s not me anymore. At least, not most of the time, when my characteristically alcoholic personality isn’t busy asserting itself. I have much inner work to do, and am not about to go casting stones I would not want hurled at me.
But I feel no shame in being sad over the folly of an otherwise good man whose diamond-hard belief in government has now led him to a place where he would possibly rather die than continue living. Alcoholism has brought me to the same place, many, many times. Different diseases, same results.
Am I a good man? I suppose that’s debatable, and up to others to decide in any case.
I can say that I hope that Ben Mitchell does not choose to go through with killing himself.
But that might require him to also change some beliefs.