FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Living in the small spaces around the State
Like Erick, I hate the hyper-politicization of American life. I despise totalitarianism, no matter what uniform it wears, or how popular its leaders profess themselves to be. I don’t understand why people with a birthright of dignified liberty are so eager to indulge the totalitarian impulse for supposedly benevolent ends. How many enforcers of any blood-spattered total State did not claim to act in the best interests of society?
This stuff is still toxic even if you can avoid the blood spattering. I have a conviction that totalitarian politics always turns violent on a large scale, sooner or later. Force is a limited resource, and it follows the law of diminishing returns. Eventually it becomes necessary to squeeze the last drops of obedience out of resisters, and they bleed.
Government is force. Big government means more force. Release cannot be tolerated, or else force dissipates. Look at the current idiocy of the Washington, D.C. city council’s efforts to arrange a special $12.50 “living wage” that will only apply to Wal-Mart, which wanted to build a few stores in poverty-stricken, high-unemployment communities. Wal-Mart said no thanks, and escaped. The living wage crowd is very angry about this. They won’t be happy until escape is impossible.
That’s why socialists despise federalism. Only centralized, inescapable power will do. Otherwise, citizens can escape from oppressive socialist schemes by moving to a different community, which is relatively easy to do in 21st-century America. The Founders were very big on the importance of free people granting, and by extension withdrawing, consent from government. Moving away is the simplest method of withdrawing consent. The ability to walk away from any deal, public or private, is the essential fuel of competition. That’s why we are always on guard against monopolistic business practices. Who cares whether a captive audience applauds or not?
But the Left insists on monopoly in the case of government power. Elections are to be followed by obedience. And this sphere of inescapable power grows relentlessly. The one thing we are not allowed to vote on, ever, is reducing the size of government, and therefore increasing the sphere of liberty. To the Left, that kind of talk is seditious. Elections are about nudging the government into applying one trillion-dollar solution or other to society’s problems, but there must be a trillion-dollar solution. Those who would prefer the government to do nothing are considered cruel or selfish… but the government “doing nothing” is the very definition of liberty.
So everything is now a matter of government interest, which means politics is all-consuming. It’s amusing to listen to someone complain that they don’t like politics – a very common sentiment – while also declaring themselves comfortable with gigantic maternal government. If you want the State to control, provide, tax, and limit everything, you had bloody well better learn to love politics. They will be everywhere; they must be. And because one person’s votes and opinions matter very little against the power of a mighty central government that controls the lives of hundreds of millions of people, you had better be prepared to get organized. Your interests will only be protected if you belong to a large, aggressive political collective that can command the attention of politicians. You must be aggressive in asserting those interests against others. The State-run economy is a zero-sum game, a very limited pie, sliced with extremely sharp knives. You either take, or you give.
You’ll find no respite from political arguments. The State needs to keep you properly motivated. The spaces surrounding the State have grown very small, and they are not peaceful hideaways. There’s a fun little story in the Washington Post about the desperate extremes the Administration is resorting to, in its last-minute quest to lure young suckers into signing up for ObamaCare:
In Connecticut, selling Obamacare involves airplanes flying banners across beaches. Oregon may reel in hipsters with branded coffee cups for their lattes. And in neighboring Washington, the effort could get quite intimate: The state is interested in sponsoring portable toilets at concerts.
The advertisements, developed with political consultants and communications firms, illustrate the ability of the health-care law’s supporters to pinpoint the precise group they want to sign up for Obamacare — young and healthy Americans who won’t weigh down the system with high medical bills.
However sophisticated, the outreach also underscores how states have become willing to try almost anything to make their pitch in the face of a poorly informed and politically divided public. With 82 days left until the insurance marketplaces open for business, public awareness remains low. Most polling data suggest that few Americans are aware of how the Affordable Care Act works — or that it even exists.
And we can’t have that, can we? So there will be no more non-political coffee slurping, or urination. The State will seize our money and use it to purchase port-a-potties festooned with ObamaCare propaganda, to make sure the right political messages are broadcast into the skulls of its revenue targets when they take a restroom break at rock concerts.
ObamaCare will be everywhere. It’s tens of thousands of pages of regulations and requirements that you don’t get to ignore, and cannot escape from. You don’t have the right to seek your own solutions any more. You can’t move to a place where people generally share your approach to weighty issues. The last energy of federalism will be drained away when the basket-case blue states begin imploding, and everyone else is taxed to bail them out. It won’t matter that your state government was managed responsibly, or that your governor provided a growth-oriented business-friendly environment. Your reward for that will be a bigger share of the bailout for the left-wing lunatics in Illinois and California.
If you don’t like politics, and don’t like the pressure to angrily view your fellow citizens as greedy fat cats or irresponsible parasites, you want a smaller government. Much smaller. Big Government is fundamentally incompatible with social harmony, although its acolytes are always trying to argue the reverse. If you seek a more genteel society with less political strife, you want states to compete with each other for citizens. You want a federal government that will make America a magnet for investment, instead of building regulatory fences to keep it from fleeing overseas. You want a system that spends less time telling people what they’re allowed to work for, and obliged to settle for. You want people to cooperate voluntarily, rather than using force to impose their demands on each other. Life in such a society is not always placid, but at least the discord tends to be more productive.