If you would reap power, sow despair.
Desperate people will submit to indignities the proud and independent would never suffer. The shrieking alarms of “crisis” and thunder of “warfare” weaken our resistance to command. That’s why every political initiative is portrayed as a dire emergency, or the moral equivalent of war. You’ll notice that all those politicized “wars” on domestic issues are eternal – there are no victory conditions or exit strategies. Who feels a greater sense of despair than helpless civilians trapped in a series of endless wars? Statists reach through that gateway of helpless frustration to seize power and money.
The War on Poverty is the paramount example of such militarized socialist quagmires. Contrary to the copious promises of its early generals that the War on Poverty would be a battle to reduce poverty, its current champions insist that it’s all about making poverty easier to endure – a seamless transition of core reasoning from a clear objective and definite measures of progress, to a fuzzy perpetual mandate that makes the progress of the welfare state impossible to critique. In fact, the lack of progress becomes a supposedly irrefutable argument for spending more money. That’s what despair is all about: no matter how hard we struggle, we will never escape from the quicksand. No matter how much we spend, it will never be enough.
Meanwhile, the clients of the welfare state are fed their own steady diet of despair. They’re told life was rigged against them from the start. They are taught success comes only at the expense of the unsuccessful. They’re told what they deserve is more important than what they can earn… and no matter how much they are given, it’s never enough. The demands of such desperate people are music to the ambitious collectivist’s ears. It is often said that liberalism is the politics of envy, but the dark heart of envy is despair – we covet only what we believe we can never achieve on our own. You have to give up before you can get really serious about resenting those who have not. The best way to induce people to give up is to convince them further effort is futile.
Law-abiding people are taught to view themselves as criminals, suffering through an endless collective prosecution that will never end with a verdict of innocence. That’s the purpose of such social and media constructs as “campus rape culture” – a collective crime every male student is presumed guilty of. You’re also guilty if you insist on due process, or ask any tough questions of the self-appointed prosecutors. It’s not much of a “trial” when offering a vigorous defense is taken as an admission of guilt.
Most of us understand that the rule of law is essential to a prosperous and harmonious society. Safety and confidence are essential to commerce and constructive effort – in other words, voluntary cooperation. No one wants to open a store certain to be robbed, or patronize a store certain to rip them off. In the absence of confidence and safety, voluntary cooperation is replaced by compulsion; people who are reluctant to engage in necessary efforts will be forced to do so. Taxes, subsidies, and regulations are more elegant means of asserting such force than marching people onto work sites at gunpoint, but the overall result is the same: compulsion becomes more common than persuasion, as central planning overrides voluntary sales and investment. Confident people with time to think carefully about the value of their liberty will not agree to such a substitution, but desperate people who think voluntary commerce is rigged against them will.
Even the corruption and incompetence of the Ruling Class can be milked for despair that the Ruling Class finds useful. (In many ways, politics is the art of profiting from failure.) Corruption leads people to believe that only the powerful and well-connected can get ahead. The skilled socialist diverts this anger exclusively against those who purchase the indulgences of government, not those who sell them. This is one reason politicians such as President Obama are fond of portraying themselves as shocked and saddened outsiders, helpless to change the corrupt system they preside over. It’s why a President who spends much of our money rewarding his favorite contributors rails against the influence of lobbyists. We are left thinking that reform is hopeless, without blaming the people who claim the job cannot be done. The most cynical among us conclude that no one who can conceivably wield power has any interest in using it to effect true reform – there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, national politics is a staged battle between Republicrats and Demicans as real as the nightly jousting at a Medieval Times dinner theater – and disenfranchise themselves by refusing to waste time on pointless voting.
The failures of Big Government end up crushing our spirits, rather than chastising those who have failed. Nobody gets fired, no heads ever roll. One of the under-reported scandals in Washington is the wanton abuse of “administrative leave,” which amounts to punishing miscreant officials by sending them on lengthy paid vacations. Failed programs remain immortal – we’re told we can only aspire to improve them by giving even more money and power to those who have already failed us. When the Left uses the planned failure of ObamaCare to usher in single-payer socialized medicine, you’ll see the biggest example of such a swindle ever perpetrated against a self-governing republic… but it will hardly be the first example.
We were fooled, our government watchdogs were bamboozled, cost estimates were gamed, none of the campaign promises were kept, people who committed no crime are being punished by the heavy hand of the State, and nothing can be done about any of it. It’s too late. You only had once chance to vote against this, although of course the vote was not portrayed that way at the time. Repeal is impossible, liberty taken can never be returned, the State never gets smaller… that’s not just ObamaCare, it’s the story we hear about every Big Government catastrophe. The frustration we feel about this unbroken continuum of disappointment, this relentless process of growth through failure, is useful to statists, because it is a form of despair. Some of us accept the notion of ambitious but under-performing government, because it’s just the way things are, the New Normal, and even when we “purchase” Big Government with cold, hard ballots while blinded with fraud and deception, no returns are ever allowed. Some of us nurse our resentment of the system that takes advantage of us, but conclude we can never defeat it. We admit that those who profit from the system will always defend it more vigorously than dissenters try to reform it.
All such surrender – willing or grudging, negotiated or unilateral – is useful to the Ruling Class. From one coast to the other, they see fertile ground for cultivating various forms of despair, and they plant it eagerly, because they know they will reap power. Weak citizens make for strong government. The less people trust their neighbors, the more they will submit to rule by a supposedly enlightened elite. When we believe we can accomplish less, we demand more. When risk is perceived as unacceptable, security is sought instead, and the State claims a monopoly on the provision of security. We should seek a restrained government that uses its narrow powers to make it easier for us to cooperate with each other by choice. Instead, because we are desperate, we empower the State to subdue and control our neighbors. We don’t have to do the hard work of finding partners when the State monitors us all as suspects.
Maybe this cycle of degeneration will end when too much despair has been stuffed down our throats, and we rebel. We’ll hit rock bottom and stop believing that only the wisdom and benevolence of the Ruling Class keep things from getting worse. It would be unfortunate if that’s what it takes, because for a country as large and prosperous as America, rock bottom is quite a long way down. Fortunately, despair is a burden easily shed. All you need is faith – in yourself, and in your fellow Americans.
Why do you think the Ruling Class pushes class and race war with such enthusiasm? They understand that faith is the antidote to despair, so they try to crush it wherever it threatens to blossom. They know how much goodwill remains in the American heart, despite generations of effort by academics to surgically remove it. If we believe in each other, and work together voluntarily – hiring, buying, selling, investing, building, and helping voluntarily – we don’t need the Ruling Class anymore. They know how the bounty of brotherhood puts the meager benefits of stale, compulsory central planning to shame. That’s why they insist it is sinful to ask what can be achieved in the free space created by the subtraction of government power. We’re supposed to believe, without question, that our rulers are forcing us to live in the best of all possible worlds, and every crisis they’ve seemingly bungled would actually have been horribly worse without their clumsy efforts.
That’s another flavor of despair, isn’t it? You rubes would have made everything so much worse without our brilliant guidance. Don’t you dare start daydreaming about what might have happened, if we didn’t tax, spend, and regulate like mad! Don’t you dare hold us to the standards we set when we tricked you into giving us power! No matter how inadequate our work might be, it’s still far better than what you could have done on your own. You can’t be trusted to defend yourself, educate your children, sell your labor, provide for your family, or show charity towards those in dire need. Without us, you would all be in dire need.
Too many Americans have accepted such flimsy arguments for far too long. Let us halt the harvest of power by starving it of despair.