Today’s Guest Saturday post is by Pat Slattery of The Free Market Project. His essay was originally published on June 8, 2013.
None of the scandalous behavior of government should be a surprise
Benghazi cover-up… IRS being used politically to thwart the Tea Party… NSA data mining… Obamacare driving down wages (making us a nation of part-time workers) while simultaneously driving up insurance costs for everyone… Government bureaucracies seemingly doing all they can to thwart economic growth (witness the EPA)… On and on and on… Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be.
Here’s the deal: Once upon a time the nation-states of the world were run by monarchs. Kings, with absolute power, usually obtained by someone saying that God had anointed that king, and then the monarchy was passed by blood. Most often this blood meant bloodlines, with the son inheriting the kingdom, but it also meant blood spilled by people to remove one king and install another (oddly, with an argument that God wanted the new King to be King, and that his bloodlines will be worthy of inheriting the power).
The king owned everything in his kingdom. You went hunting and killed a deer, you were killing “his majesty’s deer” and if his majesty didn’t say that was OK, you were in more trouble than the deer just before the shot that killed him. The king could bestow titles and lands to Lords, who would rule in his name, while still being beholden to the throne. Beneath all of that were the commoners, those without lands and title, who simply did their labors, and hoped the Lord or the King would allow them to keep some of it. They had no “right” to it. Everything belonged to the King. Including the life of the “little people” who had no land or title.
It’s pretty clear, looking back, that this was not fair. Why does someone else have the right to the fruits of my labor? How can one guy claim to own everything?
Worse, your power to control anything in your own life was based on your name. If you were born son or daughter of a Lord, things would be good for you. If you were born son or daughter to a farmer, or a mason, or a smithy, you were going to be scraping and bowing before others of higher station than yourself for your entire lifetime. And so were your children. Did it matter if the Lord or the King was an idiot? Did it matter if that person was cruel and unworthy of power over anyone? Nope. Did it matter if you were brilliant or extremely skilled? Only if you caught the eye of someone above you who deemed you to be of service, in which case you’d get a little more if they were willing to give it, but they could also use force to take your brilliance or your skill.
Some people, gifted with distance from the crown, decided that all of this stunk to high heaven. They fought for independence from their King and declared everyone equal. Perhaps not equal in what they might achieve, but equal in their opportunity to create their own lives, to own their own property, to have themselves valued by what they could achieve and by, frankly, their own lights, by what they wanted out of life and could create for themselves. This new system–where the individual had primacy, not because of their name or their birthright, but because of individual liberty, and it was the government that served the people rather than the other way around–was a smashing success.
Fast forward to today, and the rise of the Progressive system. In this system, “smart” people in government have the power to dole out directives, punishments, and rewards. The elected leaders and the bureaucrats have power over the people, by virtue of their greater wisdom, their greater compassion, and their wonderful intellect. They can reward you, or they can restrict you. They live off of what you produce, while sticking their noses directly into the manner in which you produce it. They can stop you cold if they want. Perhaps they can’t kill you, but they can make you miserable. Ever larger portions of what you produce go to allowing their appetites to grow larger. They keep their power by telling others how evil you are if you have managed to do well, and promising those who have not achieved much that they can take what you have achieved and award it to them… after skimming the bureaucrat’s bit off the top, of course.
Doesn’t “Progressivism” remind you of anything? A small group of powerful people controlling the lives of the masses… The edicts of the elite, of the anointed, dictating what individuals and groups can do. Powerful people promising to take care of we “little people” without having a clue about our lives…
When power is allowed to be concentrated in the government, and not in the people, this is what you get. You return to feudal times, with Kings, and Lords, and others controlling your life, whether they are worthy to have that control or not. (Hint: NO ONE is ever worthy of that role in your life.)
The end of the story is this: Eventually, those who supported the “ruling class,” but did not become part of it, live as miserably as those who did not support being ruled. They scrape and bow and wonder why it all turned out so badly. Then they remember freedom…