Hit Or Myth
STR Column by Jim Davies, published on November 10, 2006
Don't know about you, but I've had it with government--the whole sordid, arrogant, bloodthirsty, miserable lot of it. The notion that government has some lingering merit or justification is totally discredited. It has to go, all of it, and not just to be reformed or improved, by sprinkling perfume on the cesspool. It's utterly, irredeemably evil in its every action (even when apparently doing "good") and so must be dismantled and totally scrapped, without a scintilla remaining to pollute society. If you share that view, or are willing to consider the evidence for it--and there is an abundance, here on Strike The Root--then we'll have a shared aim: to find a way to terminate its sorry existence in the shortest possible time, at State and Local levels as well as Federal; for what the strutting tyrants do in D.C., the tin gods in Town Hall would just love to emulate. This is about how to hit that target.
One by one, our friends and neighbors need to be shown that everything they have been brought up to believe about government is a myth. That's not a simple task nor a quick one--if there is a quick fix to this problem, I've not found it. It will take a decade or three. Everyone in society needs to be led to the understanding that not one of the assumptions underlying government has any validity whatever; that they are myths, from top to bottom. In the process, each person needs to be shown a new way of thinking, which we call "rational"; that is, he or she must learn and agree to abandon myths and adhere to reason--as a way of thinking about pretty well everything. It's a very radical change, for government "education" is built high upon myth, to avoid teaching children how to question authority and reason for themselves.
By "abandon" I don't mean to force anyone not to entertain himself with fiction, nor read fairy tales to her children--of course not. Myths have a harmless use, within that context. So long as they are clearly understood to be mythical, they can be instructive or amusing. Most of the fairy tales we learned as young children have an ancient origin; it's how warnings were passed down and remembered, about morality and conduct and sometimes just plain fun, before the printed word was universally accessible. Santa Claus, for example, vividly illustrates the warm feelings that come from pleasing someone with a gift, especially someone needy. Under age 6 or 7, children may suppose Santa is real, but beyond such an age he is known as a pretend character, a myth. We adults may still don a red coat with a white fur collar, but everyone knows it's play-acting. If gift-giving in late December were ever mandated by law, just as if the myth were somehow objectively true, the magic would evaporate like mist in the noonday sun.
Nor, of course, do I mean by "rational" to exclude or demean the enjoyment of love and beauty and music and humor and sex and a hundred other aspects of life's rich experience that don't fit within the dimensions of either myth or rationality. On the contrary, in many ways these subjective things are the very warp and woof of what life is for; once freed of the curse of government, we would each go about the business of finding and enjoying them to the full, "pursuing happiness."
An immensely valuable primer for this task of re-education was authored anonymously by a great benefactor to the cause of human liberty--The G-Myth shows a version. The analogy is of people eating a substance said to be highly nutritious, yet which is rationally analyzed to be the prime suspect in persistent, widespread poisoning. Why would people continue to eat it? Because their minds were poisoned first, to think by myth instead of reason. Worth a re-read, if you haven't seen it recently.
Myth: "Government exists." Reality: Nobody knows its identity or address. It appears to be an association responsible to nobody but itself.
Myth: "Government cares for the poor." Reality: people organized in the name of government fabricate poverty.
Myth: "Government protects the Nation." Reality: "The Nation" is just another myth, and government never protects anyone, for it has no power to do so--ever, anywhere.
Myth: "Without government, there would be chaos." Reality: there would be anarchy, and therefore the opposite of chaos.
Myth: "Government [in America ] is elected by The People." Reality: it is elected by less than one-sixth of the people, and then by delegation of powers no person possesses.
Myth: "Government [pretty well everywhere] is ordained, blessed and sustained by God." Reality: Nobody ever rationally proved that "God" even exists (more below) except as yet another myth--but if He does, and if He endorses what governments do, no sane, moral and rational person would wish to have anything to do with Him.
Myth: "Free markets would create monopolists and robber barons, who would exploit everyone else." Reality: to the extent that markets have ever been free, they have brought immense benefit and lower prices to the bulk of the population--and no monopoly ever stayed upright without government props.
Myth: "People are inherently bad, so need wise, benevolent leaders to restrict evil." Reality: if everyone was inherently evil, there would be nobody benevolent enough to serve as leader. In fact, people go bad only when handed power over others.
Myth: "Only government can deliver justice." Reality: "government justice" is a sick, cruel, vicious joke.
Myth: "Government is essential to protect the environment." Reality: wherever government has been strongest, the environment has suffered most.
You probably get the idea: myth permeates society, and sets the limits within which nearly everyone exercises what passes for "thought." While that persists, there is no hope for liberty. A whole habit of thinking needs to be swept away; all mythology (except the honest sort that presents itself as fiction, see above) needs busting wide open.
The myths below are not unique to Libertarians, but my point is that Libertarians ought not to live by myth at all! We are the sweepers and busters of myths, so had better make sure we harbor none in our own minds. It would very ill become us to expect a friend to abandon his favorite myths while hanging on to some of our own. Let me try briefly to clear them.
Libertarian Myth #1: that the massive changes needed as above will happen naturally, with no plan or action on our part. Reality: nobody ever went anywhere without a plan, and if we do nothing, nothing will stop the inexorable march of government towards annihilation of the human race. Government actions may indeed bring about a meltdown in society; but what emerges from the chaos will not be a free society unless everybody wants one (recall Russia , in 1917) and for that to happen, everybody must be well educated about what a free society actually is. Nothing good will happen without universal re-education, and universal re-education requires planning--and then some.
Libertarian Myth #2: that all will be well, if only we can persuade people to return government to the restraints of the Constitution; abolition is neither necessary nor saleable. Reality: if the Constitution could have prevented the rise of a one-party fascist dictatorship, we would not have one today (in all but name) or as Spooner put it, the Constitution "has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it." The very best that such a return could achieve would be to rewind the spring and replay the history of the last couple of centuries--probably faster. In any case, it is ludicrous to suppose that a piece of parchment could ever limit the power of government, for government is by definition that which has supreme power within a geographical area. If arguendo a constitution were able to over-rule it, the piece of paper would be the government; who- or what-ever does the limiting, becomes the government and then itself needs limiting, in an infinite regression. The "limited government" theory is therefore irreparably self-contradictory.
Libertarian Myth #3: that there exists a God to be worshipped. Reality: nobody (to my knowledge) has ever even defined what this entity is supposed to be, let alone proved that he, she or it has any actual existence. It is surprising that, in an otherwise rational forum like Strike The Root, there should be several who seem still to adhere to this ancient myth in one or other of its forms. Not only is "God" undefined, the attributes he/she/it is supposed to have are either meaningless, or else contradict each other, even within the same religion; thus, the Christian God is imagined to be omnipotent--but that too is a term hard to define. As George H. Smith asks, does it mean God can make a square circle? (impossible even by definition)--or just that He can turn an acorn into an elephant? (imaginable, but impossible for humans) or neither? Again, God is said to be omniscient, yet to have endowed humans with free will; a fatal contradiction or else a cruel, cosmic joke. Also He is allegedly omnibenevolent, yet permits human cruelty and suffering on a massive scale--and then there is Hell, which several religions say is a place where their opponents will writhe for ever and ever. Thus Jesus in Matthew 13:42: "They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" and in Islam "People have denied this Koran and call it foolish nonsense. They will be dragged headlong into Hell through boiling, putrid fluid." (40:72.) To my mind, the most telling contradiction happens when one combines two such attributes: omnipotence and omnibenevolence. This is absolutely impossible. Look at any manifest tragedy (like the tsunami, again): if God is omnipotent He is certainly not omnibenevolent, or if omnibenevolent, then certainly not omnipotent. The entire myth is riddled with such fatal contradictions from ground upwards. Again: it is amazing that people, rational enough to understand that government is a myth, are sometimes slow to shake off this even more absurd work of imagination; the more so yet, in that "worship" necessarily requires an abnegation of the very self of which libertarians are supposedly proud. But it can be shaken off. I did it; so can you.
The choice may seem harsh to some, but it is simple: either continue to live by myths that enslave, or engage the mind to think only rationally and hit the target of a free-market society within the lifetime of most reading this. One or the other--but not both.