The wise thinkers of history have always understood that political systems are the products of our conception of truth and justice. Since 1776, we in America have believed that a just political system must be based upon a concept of rights, and government must be enshrined as a protector of those rights. This, as the Declaration of Independence states so eloquently, is the purpose of government.
But unfortunately our modern-day rulers in Washington, and the intellectuals who shore them up ideologically, have warped this vision of political philosophy. Government is no longer to be a “protector of rights” to maintain freedom and order. It is now to be a “provider of privileges” to create socio-economic equality.
Why this is so wrong is because whenever a privilege is conveyed by government to some specific faction of society (such as low-income earners, minorities, corporations, banks, unions, etc.), it requires the destruction of someone else’s basic rights. For example, if the government is to provide subsidies to low-income earners or loans to corporations and banks, it must get those subsidies and loans via progressive taxation, which violates other people’s right to their property and their right to equality under the law.
If government chooses to employ currency inflation to fund its subsidies and loans, this violates everyone’s right to their property via debasement of their savings. If government chooses to borrow the money for its subsidies and loans, this merely delays the violation of rights; the wealth redistribution and currency debasement come later to repay the loan.
This dilemma of “rights violations” applies to all special privileges that comprise the welfare state. What do we mean by “special privileges?” We mean all the subsidies, favors, loans, quotas, price controls, wage supports, tax breaks, pork barrel programs, etc. that are coercively conveyed by government to various factions of society.
This is why all libertarians and many conservatives oppose the welfare state. It’s not because we are inhumane and greedy; it’s because we see that all government interventions into the marketplace to allegedly “help people” necessitate that our basic rights get violated continuously and egregiously. And we realize that there can never be justice in a society where government violates the rights of its citizens continuously and egregiously. Nor can there ever be any real freedom; such societies always collapse into dictatorships.
Our youth need to be told about this – how this profound switch in the role of government has taken place and what it does to our society. Our youth need to be told that such a system is manifestly unjust, and that the mendacious humbugs who converge upon Washington every four years to wheel and deal in its labyrinthine networks of favors and controls are nothing but range-of-the-moment shysters, who will always be driven by consuming lusts for the status and wealth that accompany their prestigious positions in Washington. Our youth need to be told that this is the irremediable nature of man and the inevitable plight of any society that attempts to establish a government of “privileges arbitrarily conveyed” rather than “rights objectively protected.”
Corruption of Political Campaigns
To elaborate further on this theme of arbitrary privileges, our pundits appeal to us today to eliminate the extravagant money that is now used to support political campaigns. “Only by the purging of large donations of soft money,” they insist, “can we restore a fair system that appeals to our better natures. Campaign financing must be rigidly limited by law.”
Aside from the fact that this violates the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech in America, the main fallacy involved in such a limiting is that it treats the “effect” rather than the “cause.” It will do no good to limit the amount of money Americans are allowed to spend to influence politicians as long as those politicians are allowed to continue conveying the very favors and privileges for which the special interests are driven to donate their money.
If we want to stop the massive flow of dollars flowing to Washington every year to buy politicians (the effect), we must stop the massive flow of privileges that those politicians have to sell (the cause). This means eliminate all the favors, subsidies, and pork being dispensed every year by those politicians. This means a phase out of the welfare state.
As long as politicians have “special privileges” to offer American citizens there will be corruption and tyranny in the system. Smacking the hands of those who are buying these special privileges every year is futile. The only remedy that can save us is to restore “federalism” and return to the strictly limited government envisioned by the Founders. In this way there will be no desire on the part of powerful factions to try to buy influence in Washington, for Washington will have no privileges and favors to convey to them.
The Instigator of Our Decadence
Such an approach to politics is the solution to most of the problems that plague the political-economic arenas of our lives today. The instigator of our decadence over the past 100 years has been the ugly, obnoxious bully of statism – the belief that only through the omnipresence of bureaucratic experts and politicians can we manage our economy, run our schools, fund our charities, and handle our personal associations.
As long as those in positions of intellectual responsibility (in the media, the universities, and the business community) continue to evade this basic truth, America will continue to degenerate as a country. It is the responsibility of all thinking men and women to be able to carry the cause and effect relationships of life back to root causes and not get caught up blindly in treating surface effects – and then to explain such root causes to the youth of our country.
Our youth need to be told that rising prices, recessions, massive debt, political corruption, punitive taxes, and the explosion of government regulation that we are suffering from today are all merely effects of a much deeper disease. And that disease is liberalism’s belief that “providing privileges” instead of “protecting rights” is the duty of modern-day government. To cure this disease we as a people must purge liberalism from our culture; it is the root cause of all the debilitating effects.
For those readers who wish to further pursue these issues, my book, The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values, delves extensively into them and explains in layman’s language the philosophical, political, and economic implications involved. It traces the pernicious development of our switch of government’s role from “protector” to “provider” over the years and outlines what must be done to reverse the process. In other words, it explains how we can save America and restore her to the republic she was meant to be.
Nelson Hultberg is a freelance writer in Dallas, Texas and the Director of Americans for a Free Republic www.afr.org. A graduate of Beloit College in Wisconsin, his articles have appeared in such publications as The American Conservative, Insight, Liberty, The Freeman, The Social Critic, The Dallas Morning News, and the San Antonio Express-News, as well as on numerous Internet sites.
He is the author of The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values
Email: NelsonHultberg (at) afr.org