An Army of Zeros

Monday, December 01, 2008

Coming soon to an Inbox near you is an email containing a scanned-in copy of a column by Norma White, a retired network engineer, along with the exhortation, "LETS GET BEHIND THIS ONE....SEND IT ON AND ON".

Needless to say, even if everyone actually "got behind this one", nothing substantive would happen because the column does not challenge any of the common premises that have made our country into the mess that it is.

It is easiest to see this on the matter of government expenditures:

Stop the abuse of our benevolent welfare system. We feed children free meals three times a day until they are 17. Churches give away good, clean clothes. Companies buy and donate school supplies. Emergency rooms provide health care at taxpayer expense and the food stamp program is buying food at home. What are parents doing for their children?
Since when has taking money away from its rightful owners -- which must be done sooner or later to fund welfare programs -- been "benevolent"? This system is inherently abusive! The only way to stop "abuse" in a system financed by theft is to do away with such a system, and begin consistently protecting property rights. In the meantime, everyone who wants to feel good about helping the poor is free to do so.

Ditto for "Stop all unnecessary spending so we will have the money for our nation's security, and to help needy and elderly Americans." Forget about the relative magnitudes of wasteful spending compared to the amount of money it takes to fund welfare state programs: What's "unnecessary"? (I nominate, "the government stealing money"!)

Call this the "pork buster fallacy". As I have said before:
Such grassroots efforts as "Pork Busters" form when enough people become outraged at such things as that infamous "bridge to nowhere" -- and yet nobody challenges the massively larger larceny cum vote purchasing that is the welfare state, and which makes such relatively penny-ante outrages possible at all.
And while we're on that subject.... Social security spending alone is currently about 4.3% of our Gross Domestic Product, which is about $13.8 trillion per annum, or $593 billion per year. By contrast, according to Citizens against Government Waste, "pork barrel spending" cost only $29 billion in 2006. And speaking of penny ante, each member of Congress is paid less than $200,000 per year. I don't care for them voting on their own pay raises either, but I'd be thrilled to pay them ten times as much if they'd start getting rid of the welfare state.

Pork is about $17 billion this year, but recall the trillions being spent -- I mean "pledged" -- on the bailout so far, and the "success" of the Pork Busters is put into perspective. To her credit, White is against these bailouts. Unfortunately, she isn't consistently against government bailouts, for what is the "social safety net" but a massive system set up to perform personal bailouts?

And White's soft spot for a small, personal bailout here and there leads us directly to why her proposal -- even if made consistently pro-freedom -- would fail: Her call for Congressional term limits is the clue.

Who elects the louts in Congress year in and year out? If, as White implies, "all Americans" are really tired of how the country is run, there would be no need for term limits. And, unlike in the last presidential election, we would have choices at the polls that were more meaningful than selecting which color socialist we're going to send to office.

But until enough Americans become indignant about the regular trampling of their individual rights (which include the right to property), and accept the fact that with individual freedom comes responsibility for leading one's own life and, yes, risk, it will not matter that we have the vote because demand will ensure that only panderers run for office.

And if you don't believe me, ask yourself what the chances are now of a candidate being elected on a platform of phasing out social security and welfare, returning our nation to the gold standard, and fully deregulating the economy.

I didn't think so, either.

The way out of the predicament of an enormous welfare state that violates our individual rights more every year is for more individual Americans to begin to demand that the government restrict itself to its only proper function, which is the protection of individual rights. And this will come only after more Americans embrace as moral the pursuit of their own self-interest and reject the false, impractical ethical idea that it is good to sacrifice the well-being of some human beings for the sake of others, and its political expression of collectivism.

That is my goal, and history shows that it is perfectly achievable.

-- CAV


Galileo Blogs said...

The abolition of slavery is a dramatic and wonderful example of a moral argument winning the day.

In a somewhat different manner, moral argument also resulted in two other significant rights violations being reversed in the late 1800s. These were the implementation of the income tax and the abandonment of the gold standard. Both happened in 1862 and for the same reason, to pay for the Civil War.

After the war ended, the seemingly impossible happened. Both of these interventions were reversed, largely (as far as my limited reading informs me) on the basis of rights and an appeal to the Constitution. Congress repealed the income tax in 1872 and it remained dead until 1894, when incipient “Progressives” in Congress briefly brought it back. However, the Supreme Court struck it down (in a 5-4 vote) in 1895 and it was held to be unconstitutional until 1913. At that time, reflecting the victory of “Progressive” values, which were quite different from the individual rights orientation that was widespread in the 1870s, a majority of states agreed to amend the constitution and Congress brought it back.

The resumption of the gold standard in 1879 is probably more dramatic. Dollar convertibility into gold was suspended in 1862. The government issued so many “greenbacks” that prices doubled during the Civil War. Despite such inflation, the only way the government could bring back convertibility – at nearly the former ratio of dollars to gold – was through a deflationary redemption of greenbacks, which the government did. There was lots of protest from borrowers such as farmers, but the government did it anyway… because it was the right thing to do.

If slavery, the income tax, and fiat currency could be reversed in the late 1800s, so can the host of rights violations that plague us today.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the additional examples. They are not only enlightening, but also heartening to know about.


Harold said...

This is the type of demagoguery one might hear on talk radio.

Gus Van Horn said...

Especially the xenophobia.