“With the rise of democracy, the identification of the State with society has been redoubled, until it is common to hear sentiments expressed which violate virtually every tenet of reason and common sense such as, ‘we are the government.’ The useful collective term ‘we’ has enabled an ideological camouflage to be thrown over the reality of political life.”
—Murray N. Rothbard, “The Anatomy of the State”
Imagine that you believe humans incapable of wielding their individual freedoms responsibly – absent the fear and force of a governing elite, at least. Freedom in the average man’s hands, you believe, is a danger to himself and others.
Yet, despite the perfectly obvious dangers and costs of liberty, the people are irrationally in love with their freedoms and immune to your governance. How would you strategize for governing a people who take immense pride in their liberty?
Attempting brute force might seem a straightforward option, but it's fraught with pitfalls. Once liberty is enshrined, people fiercely defend it, even to the death. Any overt acts of suppression would be met with spontaneous, powerful resistance – a feat comparable to trying to halt a relentless river with your bare hands. Every oppressive act would only serve to breed martyrs and enemies, united in their goal to dismantle your naked tyranny.
But suppose you take a less conspicuous route. What if you could charm freedom-loving people into believing that sacrificing their individual liberties actually preserves their political freedoms?
How would you do this? In a phrase — Our Democracy.
This would first involve convincing the people that liberty is not the bedrock of a just society, but simply another commodity to trade for security, wealth, health, or national pride and glory. Ever so slowly, you would need to encourage the people to view their freedoms as shares to be bought and sold in the national corporate body rather than individual inalienable rights endowed by God.
You could then charm the masses into thinking that their participation in the democratic process, their vote, is more crucial than their individual liberties of thought, worship, speech, property, and self-defense. You could addict the voters to government through the habit-forming opiate of their ballot, watching the people slowly develop a fear of their own liberty and a jaundiced jealousy of anyone else’s.
Then, for the coup de grâce, you could subtly replace “God” with “Our Democracy,” casting the “will of the people” as the ultimate creator and guardian of rights, until eventually, the people begin to believe their power is the only way to liberate themselves from all the risks of their individual liberties.
Of course, at this point, the people’s power will merely be your power – the “will of the people” baked like clay, molded by your elite hands.
Want to see this plan in action? Just look at the history of the United States of America, where the federal government has swelled to distended proportions, ostensibly in the service of the people’s will.
Under the guise of freedom and democracy, the U.S. government continues to rob the populace blind, expanding its power and scope at the citizenry's expense and ignorant consent. This bloated state of affairs is no accident, but a century-long project furnished by the Anglo-American elite. They seem to truly believe that most of the human race is incapable of wielding their individual freedom responsibly.
Now, the elite say that the only path forward to a prosperous future is through a centralized global plan, one where Americans are expected to bear the upfront costs while the short-term benefits are reaped by a select few – who always promise long-term gains that never seem to be realized. From combating climate change to managing pandemics to fighting the next war, the people are constantly told that sacrifices are necessary to tackle the latest crisis for the greater good. Indeed, H. L. Mencken had it right when he said, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
Sadly, most of the American people, for now, seem to believe this long con. But no matter its promises, charms, or supposed generosity – no matter its calls for selfless service – the government is a Selfish Giant with an insatiable appetite for more and more.
This Leviathan will break your leg and then hand you a crutch … all while claiming you were never capable of walking on your own. This Goliath will steal from you and then expect gratitude for any scraps it may return. This Colossus will most insidiously redefine community, cooperation, nation, history, and family – aligning them all with its prerogatives – and detach people from those local and informal bonds that may have otherwise maintained their freedom and independence.
All this has happened and will continue as long as the people believe that “the government is us; we are the government.”
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email [email protected].
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.