A QUESTION WE DON'T WANT TO FACE
A QUESTION WE DON’T WANT TO FACE
J. Austin Bennett
A question for you, American . . . Who seriously believes that our children will live in a free country and enjoy the blessings of individual liberty to an even greater degree than our fathers? Did those of the previous generation have to seek permission from an innumerable assortment of petty bureaucrats before starting their own businesses? Did our parents live in the security of knowing that their home was a virtually inviolate place of refuge? Or did they, as we today, live with the constant threat of the seizure of their property under the pretext of a zoning code change or for use by an environmentally aware government? The unfortunate citizens who have shared this experience have often seen that same land re-designated for commercial use once it was in the “proper hands”.
We have also witnessed the seizure of peoples’ homes under the guise of law enforcement for the smallest infractions of an increasingly arcane body of law. Those who have faced such action found themselves in the untenable position of having to prove their innocence in order to regain what was rightfully theirs. Unable to bear the expense of the fight, they are often compelled to settle by paying off the government for a modicum of “protection” for a little while.
Since becoming beholden to a vast army of official functionaries for the privilege (not the right) of living in freedom from fear, our economy has contracted, our prison population has grown exponentially, and the tax burden we bear has increased to an unimagined extent with no end in sight. Compare our lives with those of our predecessors and answer the question, “Will our children be enslaved or live as free men and women?”
We viewed the Soviet Union as an evil empire, and rightfully so. There the people were afraid to speak, could not provide for their families without groveling for a government stipend and could not own property. The experience of the Russian people was no different than that of any group who have endured life under an authoritarian government. There, the lifestyle and accumulated savings of any family could be destroyed at the whim of any petty functionary or anyone else with the right political connections.
Mankind’s history proves conclusively that a totalitarian government thrives on corruption. A reading of today’s headlines should answer the question of our kids’ futures. Can we, even now, claim that we are safe let alone free, even in our own homes?
So how did we get here, and where are we exactly? If a man has no economic freedom, where is his liberty? Without the right to own property or keep what a man earns, the rest is just so much empty rhetoric.
Today our nation is experiencing an apparent period of prosperity. But let’s look at the times in which we grew up. My father earned an adequate income as a pharmacist to provide for our family, buy a home and put me through college. We could afford a new car and a fairly recent model used car, all on his slightly above average income. Mothers stayed at home and raised the kids.
We used to put out the empty milk bottles with the money to pay the milkman who would deliver fresh cold milk twice a week. Today, not only would the money be stolen, it’s likely that the empty milk bottles would be thrown through your windshield. Today, the mother is no longer at home. She has to work in order to maintain any standard of living above the level of abject poverty. The kids raise themselves, with the questionable assistance of television. And today, the various governments, state, city, county and most of all federal, take more than half of what you earn. They determine, not what is needed to provide necessary functions, but what “they” will allow “you” to keep. The result has been the destruction of the family unit and the American dream.
The base of our nation’s wealth has always rested upon individual initiative, the independent businessman. To assure the right to earn a living and own property, our founding fathers gave the vote only to male property owners. These men were concerned about the generations to follow. Benjamin Franklin made the ominous prediction, “We have given you a Republic if you can keep it. This form of government will last only until the people discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.”
The excuse for the increase of the power of petty bureaucrats to an almighty level has been the welfare of the poor. The idea that “THEY” are better qualified to redistribute your money that you, the one who earned it, is at the foundation of the erosion of your rights, rights which have now become privileges.
The prosperity which we now, and I believe very temporarily enjoy, is based on two phenomena. The purchase of the stock of American companies by large international banking interests accounting for the rising stock market, and the downsizing of our major corporations under the new direction of, in many cases, foreign owners. This has had the effect of increasing profits while, at the same time, making our largest export, American jobs.
As tens of thousands of skilled workers and managers are rendered jobless, the pool of potential entrepreneurs has mushroomed. Instead of tapping this resource of creativity, the endless, and mindless, plethora of frequently conflicting government regulations has rendered the entrepreneur an endangered species. Since the cost of attempting to comply with the labyrinth of bureaucratic confusion is now in the hundreds of billions, YES BILLIONS, annually, only those same huge international conglomerates can afford to do business in “the good ole U S of A”. The little guy not only can’t hope to understand the rules (indeed no one does including those who write them), the little guy also lacks the capital to effect favorable treatment for his newly burgeoning enterprise. Which is a fancy way of saying, he doesn’t have enough cash to hire lobbyists and pay the bribes.
This same benevolent government encourages those individuals to apply for a publicly funded and bureaucratically dominated “program” or to go on the welfare dole. Lacking the money to feed his family any other way, the once creative independent American has little choice. He now becomes “dependent”, effectively a ward of the state.
Thus we see the “Carrot and the Stick”. Cooperate or starve! Meanwhile those with the right political connections grow fat through the rape of the American spirit. The biggest growth industry in the United States is government itself. Several years ago, the number of government employees exceeded those engaged in manufacturing, the ones who produce.
As for the reason for this deplorable mess, the poor . . . If the trillions of dollars taken from us actually had been given directly to these disadvantaged souls, they would make Bill Gates look like a pauper. But they are still poor. The Great Society that was to be a new start for many has instead become a way of life with the fourth generation of welfare recipients now on the rolls and living in continual fear of being cut off, a sort of institutionalized slavery.
For every $1 sent to Washington to “redistribute”, only 28 cents returned. The bulk went into the pockets of a vast army of leeches, the politicians and the bureaucrats who administer the “programs”. They are not the only beneficiaries of the GIANT government, however. The remaining 28 cents largely found its way to the carefully selected businessmen who construct low cost housing, provide school lunches or study the anal emissions of cows. Indeed the selling of influence itself has become a gigantic industry. More than $500 million was paid directly to lobbyists last year. Some of that arguably dirty money purchased American secret technology from classified government files to provide foreign business interests with a competitive advantage over the Americans who invented it.
If you or I had predicted these events forty years ago, we would have been labeled Communist sympathizers and traitors. Author Ayn Rand created a stir of resentment in 1957 when she prophetically described this situation in her novel ATLAS SHRUGGED. Ms. Rand portrayed an America in which the success or crushing annihilation of a business venture would be determined, not by market forces or ingenuity, but by an army of “permission givers”, or in her words, “The politics of pull.” She foresaw the failure “one man, one vote” to protect the American way of life – individual liberty! Ayn Rand instead made a case for the enfranchisement only of the “producers” in society. She portrayed the subversion of freedom by the power elite through the selective enforcement of a body of laws that no one could hope to obey or even understand coupled with a news media that willingly collaborated with the looters of liberty. The passage of forty years has shown the frightening accuracy of that vision.
Tyranny’s biggest problem has always been control of the masses. Brute force has proven to be a worthless solution. If you have to kill the slaves, they don’t produce. The very best workers are those who think they are free. Enter the fourth estate.
The selling of the promise and the image of freedom without delivering its reality can only be accomplished with the participation of a pliant news media. Today, both the major newspaper syndicates and the television networks are under the effective control of a small group of men who belong to the same club. Whether you call it the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations or another name, the people are forced to rely on the truth gathering and truth telling commitment of men who may have a vested interest in manipulating the public consciousness. The individual reporters are faced with an awful dilemma. Those who “play ball” receive favored press status. They are the ones who enjoy access to the politicians for personal interviews and receive well-managed news leaks. The refusal to “go along to get along” can result in the revocation of their press credentials.
We can look at a glorious heritage the press of America earned by the exposes of men like Lincoln Steffens. His vitriolic articles at the turn of the century were labeled “Muckraking” and “Yellow Journalism”, but they awakened the American people to the enslavement of small children in the sweatshops of the garment trade and resulted in the passage of laws against the exploitation of child labor.
Those of us of the television generation remember the courageous stand taken by Edward R. Murrow against the pitiless misuse of the power of government to destroy innocent people by Senator McCarthy, Tailgunner Joe the demagogue of the 1950’s. Ed Murrow proved the power of the press and risked his career to end a decade of injustice. Of course, it was hard to scare a guy who reported the blitz of London from a rooftop in the midst of the falling bombs.
Few reporters in our age of TV ratings and seven figure salaries have shown such guts. One who did was Raphael Abramowitz of the Fox network’s early series, “The REPORTERS”. He covered the lavish spectacle of the inauguration party of George Bush Sr. and Dan Quayle from a street corner interviewing three homeless men. The stark contrast between “the coronation” costing millions of dollars and the plight of those hungry men in their tattered rags huddling around a burning barrel to keep warm will not soon be forgotten. Abramowitz has never been on the air since.
The fourth estate has been called the watchdog of freedom. Today, it has become the lapdog of corrupt politicians who use it to control an increasingly docile public.
Since most of us get our news in sound bites from TV’s version of journalism, it might help to remember that the first use of that medium by a political figure was a broadcast from the Berlin Olympics of 1936 by Adolf Hitler.
Since then, we’ve come a long way, baby. We created a new language of cynicism, words like plausible deniability and credibility gap. Even the leaders of this world’s system acknowledge the terrible plight of our governmental institutions. Mikhail Gorbachev commenting on the paths that leaders take stated, “What we know now, what we can clearly see from the vantage point of today, is that too often leadership in the 20th century realized its potential through force, deception or propaganda.”
But what about those who won’t buy into the deception? At one time the preachers of America represented a powerful voice of moral authority. They were free to point out the corrupting influences in our society and uphold men of integrity. Today, atop their list of concerns is the possible loss of their precious tax-exempt status as a 501 3 C Corporation, a sword of Damocles held over every church. It is the other face of the almighty license issued to every broadcaster in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
For those who won’t shut up or have the good grace to leave, there is always the destruction of their reputations the seizure of their property and imprisonment. . . all easily accomplished with the tacit assistance of a tamed press.
The fine art of intimidation was raised to new heights in the Soviet Union. They also developed a body of law that the citizen could not comply with and still live in the world around him. The definitive work on this subject, and a terrifyingly accurate picture of the United States of the 21st century, is the book, INSIDE THE KGB by John Barron. It was written the early 70’s, but its lessons are being put into practice by those sworn to preserve and defend our Constitution with the advantage of technology the Russian despots could only dream of.
The Russian Secret Police did not drag people away at 2 a.m. contrary to the popular myth fostered by our press. It was much more efficient to get something on a person and then simply ask them to stop by for a little chat. If, by some miracle, they were not violating any of the myriads of Soviet laws, the KGB could almost always find a violation on the part of close relative. Either way, the hapless victim always saw the light. Suddenly a very subdued citizen and cooperative informer was created, all with a minimum of fuss and no publicity. Sound familiar? The late Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo once observed, “In a free country, the police investigate crimes to determine the perpetrator. In a police state, the police investigate people to pin a crime on them.” (usually to ensure their silence and submission).
President Clinton, shortly after taking office, stood in front of a warehouse-sized pile of incomprehensible government regulations, each one having the force of law and the power to imprison or impoverish. He piously claimed it was time to reinvent government. Not much has changed, at least for the better. And who can doubt that somewhere in that pile is a law or regulation that can be used to destroy your life?
An authoritarian government can only survive in a climate of fear and secrecy. With the press eagerly prepared to demonize anyone officially designated as an enemy of society and the framework of a system that can hardly be called justice, it becomes easy for those who control the reins of power to insure our servility.
The idea that the right to vote equates to individual liberty is a myth propagated by those we serve. Free elections only have meaning if we also get to choose the candidates. And that, in itself, is still no barrier to tyranny.
Our nation’s founders feared the idea of democracy, and with good reason. The people who produce the goods are still, and in fact, even more subject to being looted. With this appeal, it has proven easy for crass politicians to manipulate the will of the body politic. The concept that the majority can “vote away” from a person the products of his or her work for their own benefit is anathema to the ideal of freedom. It would be well to remember that Hitler came to power through a free election. Also, manipulated by stooges in the crowd, the will of the people was done in Jerusalem 2000 years ago when they voted to crucify Jesus.
Only when the rights of that one lonely individual are protected can we claim the blessings of liberty. Those blessings include the right to own property without fear of expropriation by an avaricious government. They include your right to enter any lawful occupation or profession and to keep the money you earn. And if you produce, IF you contribute, you also should have the right to vote.
Today, the grandchildren of the brave men who stormed Omaha Beach have become dependents, not just for their food and shelter but far worse, for the viability to act. Who would dare begin a business today, which by the way would employ other people, without first thinking of whom they have to ask for the privilege – NOT THE RIGHT! We have allowed ourselves to develop a “slave mentality”. In the old Soviet Union, anything not expressly permitted was prohibited. We live at the whim of a self-installed gang of “permission givers”.
So, is One Man, One Vote all it’s cracked up to be? I submit that it depends on the man. Has he earned the RIGHT to vote? As Alex de Tocqueville observed in his renowned essay published in 1836, DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, “The truest expression of democracy is a lynch mob.”
The one person most responsible for our national prosperity, the entrepreneur, has been delivered over to the mob and his right to profit from his own efforts has been lynched. Today, roughly half the population of the United States is dependent on the government for all or part of their income. They are either employed directly or indirectly by the Federal government or are on the dole of welfare. This not only makes them beholden to the bureaucratic machinery for their livelihood, it forces the remaining productive citizens to support a waste filled, fraud riddled system that saps America’s vitality.
Our founding fathers foresaw as the greatest danger facing our then new republic, the growth of government. They realized that the bedrock protecting individual liberty is the preservation of our property rights. The Constitution itself, as originally drafted, was most concerned with that issue. The Bill of Rights, which enshrined our political rights, was ratified later.
Men like Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison knew that those elected, once in power, would have a vested interest in perpetuating governmental growth rather than restraining it. The thing they feared most was an unfettered democracy. They gave the vote only to male property owners. It was a natural way of protecting the ability of free men to produce the wealth upon which the new nation would thrive. At the time, our forefathers lived in an agrarian society and those landowners were the farmers, the producers of that era.
With the industrialization of America, the focus changed. The new producers became the working men, and later the women, who labored in America’s factories and those who built the enterprises that created those jobs. Along with the ascendancy of this nation’s industrial pre-eminence came the fulfillment of Jefferson’s ideal of “one man, and now also women, one vote”. The people now had the ability to elect, as their representatives, those who would loot the producers of wealth for the benefit of the lazy. Since it is natural to want something for nothing, the result was a tension unfamiliar to Americans up to that time.
President Calvin Coolidge attempted to remind the populace of the danger of that mindset when he said, “The business of America is business.” His plea fell on deaf ears.
Crass politicians, exploiting the base greed of the public by setting one class against another, have erected a governmental structure of monstrous proportions. Ayn Rand foretold the demise of America’s industrial base in her shocking novels FOUNTAINHEAD and ATLAS SHRUGGED. She predicted the decimation of our whole society via a monolithic government that destroys individual initiative and strangles any incentive to produce. Her solution: "Allow only the producers to vote." That won’t happen now. From the vantage point of forty years later, we can we can better appreciate the consequences of these predictions.
What person in their right mind doesn’t cringe inwardly at the spectre of the IRS, the FBI, the Dept. of This or the Bureau of That. Mention OSHA or the EPA to any person in business today and watch their reaction. America’s manufacturing base is indeed gone. There no longer exists a viable tool and die industry in this country. Almost all of our machine tools must be imported. Steel comes largely from Japan and textiles from the Far East as well.
So now what? Is it over for America? One thing Ms. Rand could not foresee was the information age. Even if the factories are gone, and yes, they are gone forever, someone still has to run them, someone has to organize the transportation of their products and someone has to invest the capital they earn wherever the physical plant is located. Today the entrepreneur has opportunities undreamed of twenty years ago. They are a creation of the computer age.
With the advent of the Internet and the information super-highway, a new global society has come into being. It’s a society built on commerce and it offers the free flow of ideas. Just as the proliferation of incredible data systems furnishes the would-be tyrant with the tools for oppression, this also provides the methods by which people and their businesses can find other markets and exchange information.
Remember that totalitarian domination requires a climate of secrecy and fear? The governments of this world, particularly our own, are even now attempting to restrict and regulate this medium under the guise of protecting us from exposure to pornography or consumer fraud that may bilk the unwary in a truly free environment. Worse yet, those in government, both state and Federal literally salivate at the prospect of taxing our transactions and even our e-mail. We have all learned to our sorrow the truth of that dictum, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.”
However, these same politicians who would squash individual liberty find themselves confounded by an inescapable fact. It is impossible to un-invent something. As long as the worldwide systems of communication can be defended from the heavy handed encroachment of government, the producers of this world will be able to propel us to a new height of prosperity and freedom.
The concept of authoritarian rule runs headlong into the immutable wall of economic reality. Capital and ideas seek freedom. So do the men and women who produce them. Just as the financial base of a nation flees to safer havens when threatened by confiscation, so the people with guts and vision. They are America’s greatest assets and we want to keep them. As long as the information flow remains unrestrained, we still have a chance.
At present, we share a material prosperity with those who manipulated the public vote by satisfying the worst element of human nature . . . the appeal to greed. But there is another side to this coin – a very disturbing side!
In 1963, prayer was outlawed in our public schools. Ten years later, the Bible was removed from library shelves by court order and that same court legalized abortion on demand. Our recently deceased Chief Justice Rhenquist was described by the President who appointed him as, “The man who would defend the Sheriff of Nottingham." He led a judiciary committed to the elevation of state power at the expense of crushing individual freedom. This philosophy accepts as true the idea that government “experts” are more qualified to raise and program our children than their parents.
Some thirty years later, we live with the predictable results. My generation went TO drive-ins. We didn’t DO drive-bys. The United States, once the envy of the world for the ideal of “the American way of life,” now leads the industrially developed nations of the world in some extremely unenviable categories. We are Number One in Divorce, Drug dependency, Unwed teenage pregnancies, Venereal disease, All types of violent crime, Illiteracy, Murder and Suicide. In fact, the leading cause of death among teenagers is taking their own lives, and as today’s headlines make clear, often taking others with them.
This nation is adrift in a sea of despair with no moral compass or spiritual base. Our rulers at every level of government are frequently moral degenerates for whom “anything goes”. No better proof exists than in the White House and the halls of Congress.
These people did not gain power at gunpoint. WE ELECTED THEM! Polls show that as long as the icebox is full, the TV is working and the cash keeps flowing, the American people approve. The concept of a republic that built our country has devolved into a democracy. -- Mob rule directed by a political elite through a controlled press.
Our future was described by Alex de Tocqueville 160 years ago. He penned these words. “America is great because America is good. When America ceases to be good, she will no longer be great.” We are there now.
This nation walked away from God and renounced its spiritual underpinnings. Here’s a sobering thought. Many people of all religious persuasions believe we are living in “the last of the last days”. Yet nowhere in the Bible’s prophecies do we find a nation or geographical area that can be identified as America. If the strongest economic, military and political power in the world is missing from the big dance, what happened? Does America still exist?
The masthead of one of our nation’s independent daily newspapers carries this quote from 2 Corinthians 3:17. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Since we were created in His image, that spirit is an indomitable aspect of all men. This was demonstrated by thousands of brave souls who fled Soviet tyranny over the Berlin wall. It is ingrained in the soul of Americans as our national heritage.
We refused to heed the warnings of the men who created this nation and constructed the world’s first representative government. It is clear, to me at least, that democracy or the idea of universal suffrage has worked about as well as Ben Franklin’s warning. There is no going back. For America, the land of my birth that I love so dearly, it may be nearly over. It may be too late for America, but that spirit of freedom, that quest for adventure lives on. It will never be to late for AMERICANS, wherever on this globe they reside.
Copyright © 2006 Use with credit.
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This article was written fifteen years ago in 1998. I hope those who read it then appreciate the significance of our situation today. - (the Author)