November 11, 2009
I generally take holy days -- sorry, holidays -- as an opportunity for posts of a more philosophical nature, and today is no exception.
Walter Williams, one of my favorite authors (though I haven't read his recent books), has a column in which he notes the contempt that Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) holds for the United States Constitution, insofar as it might limit her power to rule over the rest of us:
At Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Oct. 29th press conference, a CNS News reporter asked, "Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?" Speaker Pelosi responded, "Are you serious? Are you serious?" The reporter said, "Yes, yes, I am." Not responding further, Pelosi shook her head and took a question from another reporter. Later on, Pelosi's press spokesman Nadeam Elshami told CNSNews.com about its question regarding constitutional authority mandating that individual Americans buy health insurance. "You can put this on the record. That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question."
He notes that it's not just Democrats but Republicans and Independents in Congress who by and large dismiss constitutional limitations on their power as unserious questions. I made a similar point in a recent e-mail I sent to our e-steamed co-conspirator, Brad Linaweaver; in response to a question he asked -- how in the world a military base like Fort Hood became a "gun-free zone," in which American soldiers were as helpless as high-school children against a lone man with a pair of gats -- I responded with a description but not an explanation:
There is something terribly wrong when a country of free men and women doesn't even trust its own soldiers to carry firearms. As I said in that 37-part phone message I left you, we're going through a period of retrenchment of government a la 1912 or 1932; it began sometime in the term of George H.W. Bush, continued through Clinton and Bush-43, and is now hitting it's apex -- I hope! -- in Barack H. Obama and Obamunism.
But as you can see, I begged Brad's question: Why do we periodically go through such "periods of retrenchment of government?" Why is it, as Williams says in his column, that "mankind's standard fare throughout his history, and in most places today, is arbitrary control and abuse by government?"
I hearken back to my second novel, Warriorwards (Baen Books, 1990), when I first began groping for an explanation. What I came to realize is this: Being a slave is tremendously attractive to most people in the world at most times of history.
The primary advantage of being a slave is complete absolution from any responsibility for one's own life; the slavemaster makes all decisions -- and he alone can be held accountable for one's life, health, and well-being. As absurd as it sounds stated so baldly, most people would rather die than take responsibility for living.
Think how many opportunities "we" -- the universal we; I don't mean every reader of this blogpost or its author) -- how many opportunities "we" seize to divest ourselves of responsibility for thinking for ourselves:
- Some give their lives to God, allowing the Bible, the Koran, a guru, the tarot, or a funny-colored crystal to think for them.
- Some rigidly follow an injudiciously chosen creed, doctrine, or ideology wherever it leads.
- A great many learn what they believe from their parents -- either slavish devotion to their familial beliefs, or childish rebellion against.
- Others succumb to peer pressure, doing and believing whatever their friends do and believe.
- Many blindly obey the law without ever thinking, "What if the law is wrong?" They are the "good Germans."
- Millions emulate celebrities.
- Tens of millions accept the worldview given us by CBS, Fox News, TV Land, or Lifetime.
- An unknown but very large number mold their lives to resemble the fictional escapades of movie heroes, sitcom stars, rap lyrics, or videogame characters.
- And many abdicate even the pitiful responsibilty of playing Follow the Leader by living drunken, drugged, dissolute lives -- "out on a leave of absence from any resemblance to reality," as John Hiatt put it in "the Tiki Bar Is Open."
These "lifestyle choices" all have one thing in common: They remove responsibility for making decisions. Adherents needn't ask what to do; somebody else will tell them. The only duty imposed upon the great majority of hypnotized souls is to sit quietly in the dark and wait for instructions.
This is as true in free nations as much as in obvious totalitarian tyrannies; the only difference is whether the State allows the handful of dissenters, who always exist, to practice their abominations openly; or whether they must practice their self-abuse -- thinking for themselves -- as a solitary vice.
Of course, a nation doesn't need a majority of its citizens accepting responsibility for their own lives in order to create a government tolerant of liberty... else no nation would ever be free. A vocal and powerful minority is generally all that is required.
But even that much is hard to maintain! In how many countries of the world is a powerful minority voice raised against tribalism, theocracy, plutocracy, socialism, racism (for real, I mean, rejecting all racial preference), and every other "ism" which human beings use to dodge the horror of thinking for ourselves? I'll bet you couldn't find more than five such countries today -- and some would argue that the true number is zero. I'm not sure I can refute them.
I personally hated childhood: I hated being told what to do -- not just because I sometimes didn't get to do stupid things, but even when the prohibition was rational; I just didn't like other people doing my thinking for me. But this may well have been influenced by my less-than-secure childhood.
I don't know how I would have turned out had my father been a benevolent despot, a man I could respect. I might have ended up as servile as Nancy Pelosi's constituents.
The reality for me was that the Grand Bargain, in which we trade liberty for security, was no bargain; it was so obviously not a bargain in my childhood that I never developed the knee-jerk acceptance of Authority that is the natural state of Man.
I have never looked into the question, but I wonder what percent of those who actually fight for liberty against their own leaders grew up in similarly unpleasant circumstances. I have great respect for those who fight for their country on behalf of their leaders; but it takes a powerful ideology of liberty -- not to mention huevos gigantescos -- to do as our forebears did in the Revolutionary War: Take up arms against one's own country when it has become a thing of loathsome tyranny.
Look, I have nothing against Tea-Partiers; they're nice, and they might even help Republicans against Democrats (and help fiscal conservatives against socialist Republicans). But let's face facts: The main reason so many people attend Tea Parties is to socialize, the same reason most Marxists, churchgoers, and Freemasons attend their own gatherings. Folks like to hang out with the like-minded, chatter and gossip, sing group-affirming songs, and in general have a holiday (and I don't mean holy day this time) with their friends.
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin did not fight for the first (and only) revolution for liberty in order to picnic and hook up with girls.
So the real answer to Brad's question is a sad answer: Left unchecked, government grows and metastasizes like a cancer because that's what "we the people" want it to do. (Not every individual, but a sizable majority of them.) For most folks, slavery is a very attractive prospect; the real outrage comes only when they trade away their liberty for the promise of security -- and the promise is broken.
I think that is why support for President Barack H. Obama has collapsed so thoroughly. Rhetoric aside, had he actually delivered on his promise to infantalize Americans and then suckle and comfort them like babies, I don't think he would be in as much political hot water. It was only when it became clear that he had no intention of protecting us from the vicissitudes of life that opposition swelled in a tidal wave of anger and political action.
As Benjamin Franklin famously wrote (in his Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759), "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." I believe this to be true, but it's an ineffective way of educating the great majority of people. It's a moral argument, and folks tend to tune those out (they hear so many, each contradicting the other). If they were the type to analyze moral arguments and logically pick one, they wouldn't need this advice in the first place!
I've come to believe that for most, morality flows from habit; and habit is driven by necessity. You get more traction arguing from necessity, practicality, the argument from empiricism, than telling people what they should do or what they deserve to get.
The best argument for liberty, then, is not to try to persuade people that liberty is better, finer, more advanced, or more godly than slavery -- but to convince them that slavery doesn't work. So long as people think they really can trade a great deal of essential liberty for a little temporary safety, most will seize the opportunity and thank the tyrant heartily.
The task for those of us who reject the Grand Bargain even in principle is to make all the zombies realize that such a deal always, always, always falls apart in practice. The ghouls who offer it never intend to fulfill their side of the bargain; their only goal is to lull us into a false sense of security, so they can loot us of everything we think we own.
If you see an ad offering a cherry 2008 Porsche 911 Carrera for $5,000, don't bother answering it; you know going in it's a fraud, because nobody would offer so much car for so little money.
Just so, when the One says to give him complete control over your health care, and he guarantees you'll get all the medical treatment you want for less than you're paying now -- or he says that we'll have more and cheaper energy if we pass his cripple and tax bill -- or he says workers will have more freedom to choose the union they want (or no union at all) if we take away the secret ballot... well, he's offering you a Carrera for five grand.
Once a person accepts the argument from empiricism, he will be forced to begin thinking for himself, because he can't trust others to have his own interests at heart. He rightly recognizes that each throne or power has its own interests at heart. Such thinking will grow into a habit; then and only then will habit give rise to a moral imperative.
Thank reason that the president's governing policy of Obamunism is so ham-fisted and clumsy that even the lowliest zombie is starting to wake from his thanatotic sleep. Let's hope he doesn't roll over and hit the snooze button once more.
Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 11, 2009, at the time of 5:36 PM
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I generally take holy days — sorry, holidays — as an opportunity for posts of a more philosophical nature, and today is no exception. Walter Williams, one of my favorite authors (though I haven’t read his recent books), has a column i... [Read More]
Tracked on November 11, 2009 5:12 PM
The following hissed in response by: Sabba Hillel
There is an interesting set of comments in the Talmud on the that translates as
A person who is commanded and does is greater than a person who does without being commandedThe reason given is that in spite of all, there is a center in every human being that resents being told what to do and increases the tendency to oppose it. Everybody has the two contradictory impulses within him, the relative proportions differ in each one.
Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch wrote a comment on the story of the Tower of Babel. He analyzed the exact wording (in the original Hebrew) an spoke of the difference between "language" and "tongue". He pointed out that many words from different languages, that translate as the same word when brought into ones own language have totally different connotations. Examples include "right" and "wrong", "charity", "justice" and "folk" or "populace". The examples that he gave explain, for example, the "good German" example that you pointed out and also helps explain the ability of the founding fathers to conceive of the liberties that they fought for.
Once the seeds of the different concepts took root, even though the people originally used the same words" the dissolution of the Babel society was inevitable. The story of the Tower of Babel shows that G-d caused these differences to reach their natural end by a miracle to have the entire development occur at once rather than over a period of centuries.
The following hissed in response by: snochasr
I think you have missed one large subcategory, that of modern liberals. These people believe they are thinking independently, and believe they are following high moral standards, but any objective evaluation shows that both assumptions are untrue. it is moral to give welfare to the deserving, for example, but there is no moral error in taking that money from somebody else to do it with. It's not thinking in any rational use of the term, because it doesn't consider the consequences of their thinking.
The following hissed in response by: Geoman
"You've gotta serve somebody" Bob Dylan.
I agree with what you are saying, but there is a little more. People always like to think "what's next?" Ever flip through the channels, find nothing on, then settle for a really horrible TV show just because?
No one likes to think our society is standing still. We've never done universal health care before, so despite the fact that it is manifestly stupid to pursue this policy, let's give it a whirl.
When we talk about Clinton fatigue or Bush fatigue we are really just talking about "I'm bored, what's next."
Politicians were elected to DO something. They have to pass bills, have to accomplish tangible things. They have to point to the future and say that is where they are going.
Every time we get close to the end of history, we just reset and live it all over again.
France invaded Russia, when doing so was obviously futile and would result in defeat. Napoleon knew this. His generals knew this. But they did it anyway. They invaded because they had to, because that was what was next.
So what's next?
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