About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Where Will You Be When The Lid Blows Off?

We live today in a pressure-cooked society of do-or-die politics, and the politically vanquished have no place to go. 

In 1900 the population of the United States was about 76 million. In 1901 the federal government spent $525-million (and the budget was in surplus), that's about seven federal dollars spent for every man, woman and child in the country. In 1900 there were 45 sovereign states. US Senators were appointed by state legislatures. At the turn of the century only 17 million people lived in the American West and most of those resided in California.

In short, at the turn of the century, America was a wide open country. In fact, at the turn of the century America was not a country, not really. America then was a hodgepodge of local and regional communities that were more or less distinctive cultural enclaves. Yes, the country had suffered through a bloody Civil War that ended in 1865. The War settled some Constitutional issues and paved the way for the strong federal government we have today. However, at the turn of the century that federal government was in its infancy.

The point is that individuals who found themselves in uncomfortable social or cultural surroundings had options in 1900. They could move west and homestead. They could relocate to communities that offered more tolerant surroundings or that were comprised of more like-minded individuals. The much ballyhooed American "melting pot" was a myth. Towns and cities were not ethnically diverse communities wherein residents of different cultural backgrounds and religious beliefs could be found residing side-by-side on every block. Far from it. In 1900 America was a conglomeration of neighborhoods and regions that were, for the most part, culturally, ethnically and religiously distinctive. These neighborhoods and regions were loosely united under the American flag, but each had its own peculiar idea of what it meant to be an American.

This all changed in the 20th century. Americans elected politicians like Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson who were not only nationalists but, in many ways, internationalists. They embarked on programs and policies that served to break down the ethnic and regional sectionalism that characterized the nation. In 1913 they passed the Federal Reserve Act which unified the country's currency. People often forget that until the passage of the Act the country's monetary system was comprised in the main of gold and silver coins, along with notes from a wide variety of regional banks. The new Federal Reserve System would standardize the dollar and Federal Reserve Notes and Gold Certificates as the country's common units of exchange.

In 1913 the country was further united under the federal umbrella with the passage of the 16th and 17th Amendments which provided for a national, federal income tax and the direct election of US Senators respectively. The consequence of these actions was a well-funded and more powerful federal government and vastly weaker states.

Of course, in 1917 Woodrow Wilson lead the nation into the first World War. The effect on the nationalization of the country by means of this war cannot be underestimated. Young men from distinctive regions of the country were conscripted into the army and forced to fight shoulder-to-shoulder in the trenches of Europe. Social and cultural regional barriers were gradually exposed and broken down. America began to homogenize.

Moreover, on the home front, federal politicians were eagerly doing what they could to consolidate federal power and force the nation's wide variety of distinctive communities to conform to federal edicts. In 1919 the federal government passed the 18th Amendment which prohibited the sale of alcohol across the nation. In 1920 the 19th Amendment was passed which provided for national women's suffrage. America was no longer a conglomeration of sectional hamlets, but was being forced to become a nation of uniform laws and customs. America's entry into World War II sealed the deal. Americans were one people united by a vastly expanded and powerful central, federal authority.

Today the population of the United States is roughly 313 million. The federal government spends about $3.6-trillion annually (taking in only about $2.3-trillion). That means the federal government spends not $7 but about $11,500 for every man, woman and child in the country! And that's not including the federal Gross Public Debt, which works out to about $52,000 per capita. This explosion in federal government spending per capita is mirrored by a similar explosion in federal government rules, regulations, laws and taxes which command and control virtually every nook and cranny of an individual American's life.

During the Bush and Obama administrations federal intrusion into the lives of individual Americans has mushroomed out of control. The War on Terror with its nefarious Patriot Act and the establishment and subsequent expansion of the Department of Homeland Security has granted the federal government vast new powers to monitor and arrest American citizens. The TSA has carte blanche power to literally get in the pants of American citizens as they travel by air, sea, rail and automobile. During the first years of the Obama administration politicians passed the Affordable Health Care Act which will regulate and standardize the American health care and health insurance industries, a sixth of the United States economy.

The means used by the federal government to abrogate the personal liberty of individual Americans and arrogate to itself the right to conform and standardize American social and cultural life is coercion. Today the US Constitution is mocked as antiquated and is virtually ignored by our politicians. Ironically, minority rights have virtually disappeared as the majority seeks to guarantee all manner of rights and privileges for minorities. Individual Americans are cowed by the awesome and intrusive power of the federal government to tax, to regulate, to rule and, ultimately, to imprison individuals who do not conform to the wishes of federal bureaucrats. Another tragic irony is that fully half of the American electorate consistently supports and defends this continuing federal power grab.


Half of individual Americans have come to realize that by joining with federal politicians, officials and bureaucrats they are able to get what they want from the other half. If they want grants and subsidies for food, shelter and clothing, the federal government can mandate them and send the bill to the taxpaying half. Special treatment under the law is easily arranged if your friends hold positions of power in Washington, DC.

The power of intimidation works just as well in matters of faith and culture as it does in matters of economics. If you don't like your neighbor's "disgusting" habit of smoking or drinking or using marijuana or preaching against abortion, homosexuality, public lewdness and indecency, you simply petition your friends in Washington to pass a law which will outlaw such habits or tax them to death. In this new era of absolute federal authority it seems it is possible to have your cake and eat it too, so long as your friends stay in charge.

That is the game now and it is totally understandable. Those who have power in Washington decide who wins and who loses in American society. Is it any wonder why politicians fight like rabid dogs to gain power in Washington? Is it any wonder why the news media is obsessed with federal politics? Or why politics is heatedly discussed among American individuals at work, at play and on the internet? If your man or woman wins the federal election, you stand to benefit by receiving a whole range of rights, privileges and gratuities. If your man or woman loses, you lose and you wind up paying through the nose for the spoils doled out by the victors. Not only that, you will wind up being forced to conform to the social and cultural mores decreed as the new American standard by the victors.

In America today there is no refuge for the politically defeated, the plundered and the dispossessed, no place to go for the social, cultural or religious nonconformist. The former Western frontier is as dominated by Washington as our largest eastern cities. Although we now have 50 states, they are all uniformly emasculated, unable to resist the siren call of federal "revenue sharing," unable to fight the massive and well-funded federal legal system, and unwilling to test the wrath of federal power scorned.

The only choice allowed the nonconformist is to enter the political fight in order to force his will down the throats of the other half of Americans which stands ready to deny his liberty. If he fails to fight, he'll be picked clean by his political opponents and their pals in Washington, the federal vultures.

Those of us who advocate for Constitutional government, state sovereignty and a vastly reduced federal government are slowly but surely being pressed into a corner. Without Constitutional protection of our property and state protection of our preferred way of life, and with no suitable place to go for refuge, we -- the oppressed -- will soon be forced to demand what rightfully belongs to us: our property, our freedom and our right to live in peace.

Will you oppose us? Will you deny us our wish to simply provide for ourselves and our families while truly hurting no one, oppressing no one? Will you stand against us based only on your easy and flimsy philosophy of collectivism, selfishness, sloth and greed?

You can't really believe that the socialized, nationalized and politicized America of today is preferable to that country of god-fearing, industrious and pioneering individuals that existed prior to 1900. You must be able to see the discontent bubbling beneath the surface of this pressure-cooked, oppressive society you've forced upon us.

If you can't, you will, unfortunately, suffer the inevitable consequences when the lid finally blows off.

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