"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
New World Rising (Book Review #3)
Column by Alex R. Knight III.
Exclusive to STR
Most of us, of course, are familiar with Benjamin Franklin’s November 13, 1789, statement that “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Federal judge William Pauley, in a February 19th ruling in Manhattan, referenced Franklin’s quote in connection with the holding of offshore bank accounts by Americans when he wrote, “This motion reveals the effort that some individuals will undertake to escape the consequences of Franklin’s unassailable aphorism.”
Contemplate for a moment both the arrogance and shortsightedness of Pauley’s inadequate intellect. I’m sure Nazi and Soviet judges made statements of similar caliber in their respective days. Foolish pride before an increasingly imminent fall.
So reflects the title of Tom de Lorenzo’s release of last year, New World Rising: The Quest for Human Freedom in the 21st Century. A collection of essays -- many of which were first published here at STR (under the nom de plume of simply “tzo”) – they are divided up and sorted into 11 different chapters, each addressing a various aspect of individual liberty, and the ever increasing lack thereof at the hands of government.
Before the reader arrives at the first of these, there is a foreword by Gary Chartier, followed by an introduction by the author – worth the price of admission all by itself. Devastatingly concise in its simplicity and boldness speaks the short passage: “I believe that no government has ever had a legitimate claim to the powers it allegedly possessed or possesses. Not one. Ever. Furthermore, I believe that the powers wielded by governments are the primary barrier to the achievement of human freedom. While governments exist, true human freedom cannot.”
He follows this by writing, in part, “I also believe that most people disagree with the beliefs that I have just stated,” and so brings forward the writings he has penned in the hopes of dispelling such statist notions. Out of the 42 individual pieces, all of which are worth a prolonged gander, a few – admittedly based on my own personal preferences and prejudices – stand out:
In “Heartless Libertarians,” at page 58, de Lorenzo summarizes one of the most commonplace leftist/statist objections to libertarianism in the opening paragraph: “The specter of the heartless libertarian arises when it is suggested that society could perhaps be better organized without a coercive government at its core. The proponents of this shocking scheme are dismissed as being either blatantly naïve or else accused of being calculating, soul-less monsters who don’t want to be bothered with the less fortunate members of society who may need help – it’s all about the me, me, and the me.”
He quite handily goes on to describe and delineate just how the “calculating, soul-less monsters” are all of the governmental type; how in fact the very foundation of such an institution lends itself readily to these personality types and their atrocious actions against the rest of humanity.
“Got Money?”, beginning on page 79, belongs as the introduction to every economics textbook published in modern America – it’s without doubt the most concise and concentrated dissertation and summary of the monetary system, its origins, and its history up to the present fiat paper era. Towards the end, on page 85, de Lorenzo begins his summation with a reality check: “Can you single-handedly change the system? No. Can you convince a large number of people to become involved in changing the system? Probably not. Can you write a letter to your representative in Washington so he can get the ball rolling on fixing the system? (insert sarcastic remark here).”
All true – though in addition to trusty gold and silver, we now have Bitcoin as well. de Lorenzo’s final admonition in this essay is to “get money,” so I’m fairly sure he’s down with this.
The next-to-last section, Nostalgia, is comprised of three pieces dealing with minarchism – the constitutionalists and Ron Paul types – and serves as a clarion call for small-government advocates to follow their logic through to its full and rational conclusion: “The tree is aggression. While we flail away at the specific branches that may bother us the most, aggression just keeps right on growing.” (p. 150)
In other words, of course, learn to Strike the Root.
Tom de Lorenzo’s volume is not only a worthwhile and informative read, but injects a healthy measure of humor and circumspection into the predicament we find ourselves in as 21st Century Americans. It avoids much of the dry scholarship of other libertarian writing, but is also far afield from anything bombastic or packaged exclusively for the purpose of sensationalism. It is a book that strikes not only the root of the ideological problems inherent to the very proposition of government, but also a middle ground of accessibility that both the dedicated voluntaryist and uninitiated alike will find enjoyable and worthwhile reading.