Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Millennials: Government Turns Everything into a War

In my last post I proposed the radical idea that "government is force."  Government is not, as President Obama has said, "simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together."  That is rubbish. As social animals just about everything we humans do is done together.

The significance of government is that it is the name of things we do together under the shadow of force or, as the neo-Marxists say, under a system of domination.

I know that you won't yet be convinced of this.  How could you?  We have all been carefully taught since we were babies to reverence and honor our political leaders.  Government protects us from robbers and commies; government runs the safety net that protects us from hunger and homelessness; government provides pensions, health care, and education.  And one of the key requirements for any politician running for office is to be likable, so that the voters think he "cares about people like me."

But now I'm going to proceed on the basis that "government is force," and I'm going to up the ante, by suggesting that "government turns everything into a war."

What I mean by this is that if government is force it will be looking for things to do that "obviously" require force.  After all, the time for talking is over.  We must fight against injustice, and force the oppressors to meet our just demands!  There is a word for operations that require force for their execution: war.

I don't mean by that a shooting war.  I mean a war in the definition of chaps like Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategist.  The best way to win a war, on his view, is without an actual battle: "To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."  And the point of war is to subdue the enemy, by fair means or foul.

Have you ever noticed that in politics there always has to be an enemy?  If you are a conservative, the enemy used to be the Soviets; now the enemy is the Muslim terrorists.  Domestically, the conservative enemy is "big-spending liberals" and the ACLU.  If you are a liberal, you sneer at the idea of foreign enemies: that's just neo-colonialism.  But liberals make up for that with a superabundance of domestic enemies: right-wing Christians, right-wing gun nuts, the patriarchy, the racists, the homophobes.  And that says nothing about the banksters, insurance company profits, corporate greed, and Wall Street plutocrats.

I'd never really thought through all this until I started to study Marx.  Why did Marx have such a special animus for the bourgeoisie and capitalism, I wondered?  He might have said: Look, things look pretty ratty right now in the 1840s, but look at the amazing things that capitalism has brought us, from steamships to railways that have transformed the economy.  Sure, things look nasty, but they'll probably work themselves out.

Instead he said that even though the bourgeoisie had invented all these amazing things disaster lay ahead through "immiseration" of the working class and the petty bourgeoisie, and so the whole thing had to be destroyed and utterly dominated by a new political elite.

Of course he did.  Otherwise there would be no need for chaps like Marx.  Marx needed a war on someone, otherwise the Communist Manifesto would just have been a damp recommendation for a few practical reforms.  So, as a revolutionary, Marx instinctively built a case for all-out war on capitalism which could only end in the utter subduing of the capitalists and, even more important, the capitalist spirit (see Sun Tzu, above).

My point is that unless you prophesy a war you don't need politics.  And if you don't need politics you don't need activists and politicians to mobilize the people for "political struggle."  And what would the politicians and activists do then, poor things?

Now take a look at the domestic political landscape in America.

We are just mopping up after the war for "marriage equality."  Notice that the victory cannot stop with merely enacting gay marriage.  It has to continue with the subduing of individuals that don't agree with the avant garde.  They must be shamed and shunned.

Obamacare was sold to us as the remedy for the injustice of the uninsured. This injustice required not just a few cozy subsidies but the complete reworking of the individual insurance market.  Why would that be?  Because to tinker with the system is unsatisfying for political activists.  They want a great cause, and they want to transform America in the process.  They must have enemies like insurance companies and mean-spirited Republicans, and the enemies must be made to bow the knee to the new dispensation.  That's what the Hobby Lobby flap was all about.

What's Social Security?  A war on poverty in old age.  Education?  A war on ignorance.  Welfare?  A War on Poverty.

Now when it comes to foreign wars our liberal friends are all agreed that war never solved anything.  Give Peace a Chance, they say.  But what about on the domestic front?  Couldn't we find another way to educate our children than forcing them to attend government child custodial facilities?  Could we take care of our seniors without a comprehensive and mandatory program that sequesters the savings of workers in so-called government trust funds?

Of course, the advocates of big government counter that, in this dangerous world with big corporations and big banks that can crush the little guy you need a tough guy in your corner.  You need tough regulations to tame the corporate monsters.

Good point.  Corporations are astonishingly powerful, especially when with "creative destruction" a new kid on the block like Steve Jobs can turn the computer world upside down.  The only thing is that government regulation usually operates to prevent the Steve Jobs of the world from turning things upside down.  There is even a word for it: "regulatory capture."  Looking over the past century, the great age of regulation, the public choice theorists argue that it usually happens that the regulated corporations learn how to flatter the regulators and bribe the politicians into protecting them rather than regulating them.

But let's take a look at the corporations.  How powerful, and how problematic are they?

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