June 24, 2013

Trust and the Country’s Problems

By In Politics

This piece is the first in what I hope becomes a long and productive practice of intellectually challenging and rebutting the claims of the State and its buddy media outlets.  Passing out pro-liberty pamphlets during the revolutionary era of American history would have been incomplete if those very pieces were not stock full of anti-Britain, anti-imperial material.  Murray Rothbard, in his outstanding Conceived in Liberty, comments on Thomas Paine’s 1776 Common Sense by writing:

“[Paine’s] fiery and brilliant pamphlet Common Sense, off the press in early January 1776, spread like wildfire throughout the colonies.  A phenomenal 120,000 copies were sold in the space of three months.  Passages were reprinted in newspapers all over America.  All this meant that nearly every literate home was familiar with the pamphlet.  Tom Paine had, at a single blow, become the voice of the American Revolution and the greatest single force in propelling it to completion and independence.  Charles Lee wrote jubilantly… that… ‘it will… give the coup de grace to Great Britain.'”

In like fashion, I hope that I will be able to add to the current wildfire of the liberty movement.  In my small way, by calling out the State and the Media on its lies and its propaganda, my goal is to simply add to the significant pressure that the evils of tyranny have felt during the last decade.  120,000 copies were enough to convince the Americans that freedom is one of man’s chief goals.  What then is the potential of the internet?  The world is discovering the answer at this very time.

Like this channel on Facebook, email me (reformedlibertarian@gmail.com), follow me on twitter @reformedliberty, and let me know who says what, so that we can address it here on the Libertarian Rebuttal channel.  I urge you to do as Janet Napolitano has told you: “if you see something, say something.”  We are about to turn the State’s very words on their head.

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The Liberty movement is spreading quickly.  Therefore, those in power have been working overtime to de-legitimize and dismiss anything relating to individual liberty and libertarianism.  The number of ridiculous, logically incoherent, and flat out ignorant statements against freedom is at an all time high.  And so, as one who wishes to do a column rebutting Statist propaganda, where am I to start?

All who pay attention the dreary and despicable world of politics and governmental happenings, no doubt have heard the news that Edward Snowden, an ex-intelligence contractor who worked inside the NSA, revealed to the world the massive extent to which the United States Federal Government spies on both its own citizens, as well as citizens throughout foreign countries.  And most, probably not all, have heard somewhere or another that, among other things, President Barack Obama responded by stating that if people can’t trust the government, then “we’re going to have some problems here.”

That’s right.  I’m starting with el Presidente.  The head honcho himself.

Let us look at the full sentence, as reported by the Washington Examiner in the link above.  Obama addressed the situation by stating that,

“If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress, and don’t trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”

Now, we ought to break this apart.  Notice the separation between “people” in the first line and the “we’re” in the second and third line.  There are two different groups of people that he is talking about here.  So let me interpret: “If the citizens don’t trust those of us working for the State, then those of us working for the State are going to have some problems here.”

But this is exactly the libertarian point, that the State is demanding blind trust, without showing exactly why they ought to be trusted!  And further, there is an implied threat of “some problems here” if trust is refused to be given.  So doesn’t this in itself show that the problem should actually be in trusting an apparatus that orders such action from its people?  It seems to me, and this ought to be true for any decent human being, that this is a specific reason why one would be wrong to trust this body of people.

But the Libertarian Rebuttal more basically is this: no, government is that group of people who should always be given the least amount of trust.  Within the libertarian movement, the spectrum is large and it includes Constitutionalists, minarchists, and anarchists, with each group denying the others of the “libertarian” status.  Beyond that healthy and productive conversation, which bears little meaning in this specific rebuttal, there must indeed be a fundamental agreement that the government by its nature is not to be blindly trusted.

The assumption for the liberty-lover, for those who believe that there is an ever-present danger of the abuse of power, for those who agree with Lord Acton that “power tends to corrupt,” is that we don’t trust government.  Rather, the pressure should continuously be put on the government, anywhere it exists, to prove itself by the day, by the hour.

The very fact that Barack Obama has said such a thing is only one example of why they should not be trusted.  For when has authentic trust ever come from a threat?

Moreover, since the libertarian systematically rejects the collectivist view that “we are the government,” and understands that the State is an institution that sits outside of, and indeed lives off of, society and the people, we should realize that the “problems” that the State is going to have, stem from the fact that its domination over the people is its chief concern.  The very existence of the State depends on whether it can exercise dominion over the people.  In the twentieth century, the mass majority of Americans have voluntarily complied with the State and its wishes.  In mass acts of compliance, the State has no “problems.”  It is when the wildfires start, and men and women begin to question either the morality or the pragmatism of centralized power, that the “problems” begin.

History is full of tyrants resorting in desperation to extremist activities of violence in order to maintain authority.  But no tyrant has ever participated in his cruel and unusual acts on a citizenry that was otherwise compliant and full of trust.  On the contrary, it is when power is questioned that “we’re going to have some problems here.”  So in that sense, looking at history, we ought to very much believe the words of Barack Obama.

But what is the true meaning behind Obama’s words?  Is he threatening the citizenry by saying “trust us or else?”  Or rather, is making more of an ideological statement: “General problems come when the people don’t trust their government.”  Because I do not think we are quite at the point where the President would overtly threaten the people specifically in this way, although it is quite obvious that this moment is rapidly coming, I would choose the latter.  And so my rebuttal is to point out that the opposite of Obama’s words are the truth.  And let me start by pointing that only those who practice the religion of Statism (that is, those who offer worship to, and find solutions from, the State itself) could possibly say that faith must rest in the American three branches of government.

It is not that problems in society come when the State is not trusted.  It is rather that problems in society, inasmuch as they are related to the State, come when the State is given the trust to participate in society.  When the State is trusted to act in the economy, it gives rise to all the financial frustrations of our time: mass poverty, shortages, rising prices, booms and busts, misallocation of resources, inflation, restrictive regulation, and bailouts.  Just to name a few.  When the State is trusted to act in civil society, it creates criminals simply by declaring certain, naturally unproblematic activities, illegal.  In other words, to trust the State’s presence in society is to accept the inevitable loss of freedom.

What Barack Obama should have said, if he wanted to be accurate to the reality of the State and its people, is that,

If people blindly trust not only the executive branch but also blindly trust Congress, and blindly trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.

At every point in time, when there exists in society an institution full of liars and crooks, common sense and history show that trust should not be given.  Problems do not come when people refuse to put their faith in the government.  Problems come when they do.  This is hardly an extremist view.  Whether you love the Constitution or consider it the basis of the modern leviathan State, the truth of the matter is that the government which is created, even at its inception, shouldn’t be trusted.  Political power must cause hesitancy, distrust, and suspicion.  This is the American tradition.

Patrick “Liberty or Death” Henry, himself an anti-federalist, refused to participate at the Philadelphia Convention (in which the Constitution was created) because, in his words, he “smelled a rat.”  He did not trust the government.  Too much political power in one place.  The dangers of such an occurrence was far too likely to produce its own set of “problems.” Perhaps my response to Obama should have been titled “Patrick Henry Vindicated.”

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com