Depoliticize America

"We must depoliticize American life -- to roll back the tide of government control over the individual's life. Politicians are expropriating a larger share of people's lives each decade. The expansion of government power is increasing like the invasion of a foreign army in the territory of one's own life. For politicians, the duty to protect always includes the right to control."

"America needs fewer laws, not more prisons. Rather than trying to dictate wages, or hiring, or the size of nectarines, or the use of private land, government should confine itself to protecting people against overt violence and fraud. Thomas Babington Macaulay, the British historian, wisely observed in 1839 that 'government should be organized solely with a view to its main end; and no part of its efficiency for that end should be sacrificed in order to promote any other end however excellent.' Government can make great contributions to social progress by upholding law and order, by maintaining a legal code that recognizes individual rights and the sanctity of contract, and by preserving national security. The important thing is not what government attempts, but what it achieves. We have abandoned the tasks that government can and should perform to pursue goals that government has no ability to achieve."

"The time has come for a repeal session of Congress -- time to recognize the failure of hundreds of existing government policies. Rather than further decimating people's rights and liberties, we should decimate the federal statute book and sharply reduce the domain of people's lives subject to political whim and bureaucratic fiat."

"Henry David Thoreau wrote, 'If you see a man approaching you with the obvious intent of doing you good, run for your life.' Unfortunately, the entire American society cannot pick up and run from the government. The time has come to face up to the pervasive failures and to radically reduce government officials' power to coerce, expropriate, and subjugate other Americans. The American public placed faith in the State, and the State failed. We need a new faith in individual liberty."

Milton Friedman in Capitalism and Freedom writes, "Fundamentally, there are only two ways of coordinating the economic activities of millions. One is central direction involving the use of coercion -- the technique of the army and of the modern totalitarian state. The other is voluntary cooperation of individuals -- the technique of the marketplace."

Hands Off

More and more people are becoming to see that big government is not good. In Hands Off, Susan Lee, a prominent writer on economics who is on the editorial boards of the New York Times, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal as well as a professor at Columbia University has over the years come to see government as she says a "menace to economic health." She says "When I started writing about economic policy in the mid 1970s, I focused on smaller things -- regulations gone bad, laws with unintended consequences. But my bottom line was always that if government were a little smarter, or a tad more agile, it could make things right. That's what I had been taught by professors with models and equations that I dutifully and confidently copied into my notebook. Indeed, that's what I taught to my students."

"In the late 1970s, when I started to pay attention to what was actually going on in the real world, I began to suspect that this was a lot of hooey." She voted for Carter and thought Reagan was too simple minded. But she grew to see the light. She finally realized "that government activism -- no matter how pure of purpose, how cleverly planned and executed -- has three results: it gives rise to unintended consequences, it creates uncertainty and promotes short-term thinking in the private sector, and it leads to government regulation of many aspects of the economy that should be left alone."

"Like all authors, I am going to say that my argument is particularly important today. Right now, at this minute, the United States is at an economic turning point. The chief rival to our economic system, socialism, has been discredited. Our own system, liberal capitalism (or whatever you choose to call it), is victorious but wheezing a bit."

"In short, many people feel ... it's time to set off in a different direction. Two other roads beckon. The current administration is pushing the country down the one leading to more government activism, more government solutions. I hope to convince you that this involves a dangerous delusion about government competence and power and that the other road, the one that leads to less government is the way to go." She says it is not easy for her to say this because she has always believed in government having a "comprehensive, detailed, and activist policy." But she says that we can only have a healthy economy if we leave people alone. She says "that advice goes double when a big bad event hits the economy." At that time we especially must discipline ourselves to not turn to government.

She says, "I think my argument is a strong one. I also know that the difficulties in convincing you are not only with the message, but also with the fact that this is a book about economics." She goes on to challenge the reader to read her anyway even though they may think economics is dull and difficult.

 She gives some good advice that the Unificationists should support. "Regulation," she says, "however meritorious the goal" reduce productivity ....Thus, although the idea of having a powerful, helpful, and adept government to take care of problems as they arise is a comforting one, it is a delusion. And a dangerous delusion, in part, because relying on the government to respond to every glitch unsettles the economic environment." She teaches that "we should have confidence in free markets. This is a rather schoolmarmish reminder, but the failure of communism has settled the debate over which is better -- free markets or managed ones .... he short and long of it is we should be ready to accept less government and more responsibility .... we should be willing to explore opportunities, take risks, absorb failure, and stop running to the government to fix things that we think fall short of perfect."

She livens her book with examples of real life situations to show how damaging government regulators are when they show up to guide people's lives. I wish I had the space to go into some of these real life stories that bring to life the hell people go through because of meddling bureaucrats. The book Inquisition is a classic story of government regulators doing massive harm to good and decent people. All this regulation of "bureaucrats with the power to direct events has been the near suffocation of everyday activity for many businesspeople, especially those with small firms."

Legalize drugs

Ludwig von Mises writes in Human Action: "If it is true that government derives its authority from God and is entrusted by Providence to act as the guardian of the ignorant and stupid populace, then it is certainly its task to regiment every aspect of the subject's conduct. The God-sent ruler knows better what is good for his wards than they do themselves. It is his duty to guard them against the harm they would inflict upon themselves if left alone."

"Self-styled 'realistic' people fail to recognize the immense importance of the principles implied. They contend that they do not want to deal with the matter from what, they say, is a philosophic and academic point of view. Their approach is, they argue, exclusively guided by practical considerations. It is a fact, they say, that some people harm themselves and their innocent families by consuming narcotic drugs. Only doctrinaires could be so dogmatic as to object to the government's regulation of the drug traffic. Its beneficent effects cannot be contested."

"However, the case is not so simple as that. Opium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments. A good case could be made out in favor of the prohibition of alcohol and nicotine. And why limit the government's benevolent providence to the protection of the individual's body only? Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music? The mischief done by bad ideologies, surely, is much more pernicious, both for the individual and for the whole society, than that done by narcotic drugs."

"These fears are not merely imaginary specters terrifying secluded doctrinaires. It is a fact that no paternal government, whether ancient or modern, ever shrank from regimenting its subjects' minds, beliefs, and opinions. If one abolishes man's freedom to determine his own consumption, one takes all freedoms away. The naive advocates of government interference with consumption delude themselves when they neglect what they disdainfully call the philosophical aspect of the problem. They unwittingly support the case of censorship, inquisition, religious intolerance, and the persecution of dissenters."

Consensual crimes

Peter McWilliams writes against government focusing on punishing people for prostitution, drugs, etc. in Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society. He writes, "almost everyone, at one time or another, has taken part in an illegal consensual activity." In his chapter "Why Consensual Crimes Have So Few Advocates" he writes, "Let's take a look at the various moving-and-shaking organizations and see why none of them protects our right to do with our person and property whatever we choose as long as we do not physically harm the person or property of another."

The first category is "Religions." He writes, "You name the religion and it's against one (often all) of the consensual crimes. Religious leaders -- and fundamentalists in particular -- don't seem to grasp the fundamental notion that keeping the government from criminalizing consensual acts between adults protects religion. If a government establishes its authority to control what people can and cannot do with their person and property, either 'for their own good' or 'for the good of society,' that same government can later begin dictating how much of one's person and property should or can be devoted to the discovery of, communication with, and worship of God. The essence of almost all religions is that one must choose, with one's free will, to worship God: a prayer said at the point of a gun is not a prayer. Likewise, the government has no business restricting how much of ourselves or our property we devote to religion. (It's already happening, of course, in the governmental suppression of 'cults.')"

He quotes Herbert Hoover saying, "Prohibition is a great social and economic experiment -- noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose." He writes, "Prohibition (1920-1933 R.I.P.) was known as The Noble Experiment. The results of the experiment are clear: innocent people suffered; organized crime grew into an empire; the police, courts, and politicians became corrupt; disrespect for the law grew; and the per capita consumption of the prohibited substance -- alcohol -- increased dramatically, year by year, for the thirteen years of this Noble Experiment, never to return to the pre-1920 levels."

"You would think that an experiment with such clear results would not need to be repeated; but the experiment is being repeated; it's going on today. Only the prohibited substances have been changed. The results remain the same. They are clearer now than they were then."

The motif throughout this book is that the 19th century had some values that need to be restored. I find it encouraging to see a renewed appreciation of the Victorians and our Founding Fathers. One of the signs that show people are beginning to get sick of this century as it keeps dropping to new lows of feminist thinking and lifestyle is the popularity of Jane Austen's novels and of movies being made of her novels. In an article in World and I (September 1996) an English professor wrote an article called"Mannerly Novels For an Ill-Mannered Age: Why, nearly two centuries after her death, is Jane Austen so bankable -- both in film and print?" The author says,"Austen presents favorably intelligent women who seek traditional roles and who are content in them and respected; she does not portray such women as witless, helpless victims yearning to discover themselves. She doesn't ridicule them as stay-at-home cookie-bakers. Austen plays to a desire for domesticity today's women often feel but dare not admit, sometimes even to themselves."

He ends by comparing the sick movie Thelma and Louise that exemplfies today's values with Austen who died 179 years ago but whose view of life is life affirming:"Movie producers and audiences will probably still be intriqued and amused by Austen's optimistic fiction 179 years from now. It is much less likely, in 179 years, the pessimistic Thelma and Louise will be anything more than a sociologist's footnote on the quaint, hate-filled idiocies of millennial feminism."

Ideological war

In Man vs. the Welfare State Henry Hazlitt gives many arguments for Libertarian philosophy. There are so many good libertarian books and magazines. I am tempted to write hundreds of pages going into all the arguments for limited government but I hope that what little I write will inspire you to study this important area of life. Hazlitt says that it is an uphill fight: "The task of the tiny minority that is trying to combat this socialist drift seems nearly hopeless. The war must be fought on a thousand fronts, and the true libertarians are grossly outnumbered on practically all these fronts."

"In a thousand fields the welfarists, statists, socialists, and interventionists are daily driving for more restrictions on individual liberty; and the libertarians must combat them." There are so many voices for statism. Hazlitt mentions one of the most famous writers champions for ever-greater governmental power and spending as Professor John Kenneth Galbraith who teaches the "theory that the taxpayer, left to themselves, spend the money they have earned very foolishly, on all sorts of trivialities and rubbish, and that only the bureaucrats, by first seizing it from them, will know how to spend it wisely."

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