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.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In The Garden Of Slick Willies

Lately I've been traveling coach cross-country on Delta Airlines. I took the opportunity to read In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. Told from the perspective of a naive, American ambassador and his family, this exceptional, historical novel documents Hitler's ascent to power in Nazi Germany circa 1933. The question always on my mind as I read was: "Could it happen here?"

A fair answer to that question requires that we put aside politics for a moment. No matter how greatly we as conservatives detest the President's policies, Mr. Obama is no Hitler and the United States is not pre-WWII Germany.

Yes, there are similarities of a sort. Germany's economy was in a shambles. Unemployment was high and the official numbers were fudged by the government. German debt owed to foreigners was crushing. The German people, who emerged from WWI battered and beaten, felt victimized. A great portion of them easily bought into government propaganda that insisted racism -- "the Jewish problem" -- was responsible for the country's misfortunes.

But the differences are significant. Germans were for the most part passive citizens, used to relying on a strong, autocratic government to maintain order and give direction. Most accepted militarism as a legitimate means of restoring national pride and the country's rightful standing in the world order.

Hitler, Goring and Goebbels were made to order for the time and place. They were ideological nationalists willing to use whatever means necessary to seize power and impose their glorious vision of the Third Reich. They were brutal and seemingly without conscience, expertly employing terror to dominate.

The infamous SA Storm Troopers -- a semi-trained gang of punks, bullies and malcontents under the leadership of Ernst Rohm, a personal friend of Hitler -- acted as Hitler's civilian national security force. The SA thugs terrorized the German citizenry, coercing it into conforming to the Nazi ideology of nationalism, socialism and racism.

On June 30, 1934, when the SA's usefulness was at an end and its very existence threatened Hitler's ambitions, he and Goring embarked on a bloody purge, personally leading loyal SS and Gestapo agents in Munich and in Berlin on a savage sweep of their foes in and out of government. They killed hundreds, if not thousands in cold blood, including some who were mere public critics of Hitler and his Nazi  Party.

The nation was stunned, but acquiesced in silent fear. One night of butchery had effectively given Hitler dictatorial power over the German state. In a speech afterwards, framing those murdered as political insurrectionists and the murders themselves as crisis management, Hitler declared:
"Only a ferocious and bloody repression could nip the revolt in the bud... ...If someone asks me why we did not use the regular courts I would reply: at the moment I was responsible for the German nation; consequently, it was I alone who, during those twenty-four hours, was the Supreme Court of Justice of the German People... ...I ordered the leaders of the guilty shot. I also ordered the abscesses caused by our internal and external poisons cauterized until the living flesh was burned. I also ordered that any rebel attempting to resist arrest should be killed immediately. The nation must know that its existence cannot be menaced with impunity by anyone, and that whoever lifts his hand against the State shall die of it."
That was Germany in 1934. This is the United States in 2012. Today in our country such barbarism would be roundly condemned and forcefully resisted almost universally. No matter what our political disagreements, Americans are at heart a peaceful, moral and self-reliant people, primarily interested in building a more comfortable life for themselves and their families.

Although a microscopic percent of Americans both on the left and the right advocate violence to get their way, violence will not succeed here. It doesn't have to. For in the 21st century those among us who wish to gain autocratic power over individuals have learned the politically correct art of patience and finesse.

Modern dictatorial wannabees have learned to democratize and politicize even the most trivial of issues, thereby insuring that we, as individuals, will turn against ourselves and, in final desperation, agree for the sake of harmony and community to settle our differences at the ballot box. However, this naive political solution amounts no less to our public acknowledgement that we believe the government has authority to rule every aspect of our life.

Virtually nothing in America is currently beyond the reach of politics. What and where we smoke. What we eat and drink. Where and how we live. What we say and write. Whom we marry. These and so many other trivial and individual actions have now become grist for the political mill, have now become subjects which pit neighbor against neighbor in nationally televised debate where no one -- whether a disputant or not -- is shy of an opinion or a vote.

With literally everything at stake, is it any wonder that the government collective in this country has ballooned out of all necessary proportion? That lobbyists on one side or another overwhelm our politicians with promises of jobs and payoffs? That we are deluged 24/7 with advertisements and media pronouncements advocating this or that position on this or that "critical" issue, such as whether or not individuals should have the liberty to drink a sugared beverage of a certain size?

Of course, our modern, enterprising politicians have also learned the subtle power of crisis management, demagoguery, obfuscation by complexity, mendacity, media management and the not too subtle persuasive power of celebrity endorsement. Ambitious politicians like President Bill "Slick Willie" Clinton no longer have to cut the throats of their opponents to gain and keep power, they merely have to spin the truth and smile or scowl into the camera.

Politics now is about impugning the motives of political opponents as racist, ridiculing their faith, wealth or personal appearance, distorting facts or simply making them up, interpreting every gaffe as a window into their "real" soul and employing popular celebrities to stir the pot in ways the politicians themselves would not dare.

Recently, according to CNN, Samuel L. Jackson "entered the political fray...urging Americans to 'Wake the F*** Up' and vote for President Barack Obama." Jackson's efforts, according to the news article, were funded by the "Jewish Council for Education and Research, a super PAC supporting President Barack Obama."

I do not share Jackson's political or social philosophy, but I can certainly understand his frustration, if not the point of his outburst.

Over the years, we in this country have made every individual action a subject for legitimate political debate and lawmaking. We beg our politicians to rule in our favor and when they don't we disparage them. Either way, they rule us as surely as despots. Oh, they are not butchers like Hitler. We in America do not live in the garden of beasts. We sleepwalk in the garden of Slick Willies.

If Americans want their individual liberty back, there is only one way to have it back.

In the words of Samuel L. Jackson, they must: "Wake the F*** UP!"

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