“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society.
As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.
We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education.
We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all.
We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality.
And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”
— Frederic Bastiat, ‘The Law’
Bastiat, writing in 19th century France, could just as easily have been speaking of today. Human beings have learned very little since that time.
Two hundred years of flourishing under semi-capitalism and semi-freedom has done nothing to douse the dreams of the nightmare utopians of our day. They call their utopia “change.” There’s no change about it. It’s the way most of human history has been: stagnant and rotten, aside from a few brief flickers of liberty, most notably the United States, where the expansion of liberty led (until its contraction) to more wealth, prosperity and freedom than the world had ever seen.
Bastiat hit the nail on the head. We no longer talk of private health care versus government run health care. We only talk of health care. It’s a given that government will be running, funding and managing it.
We no longer talk of education. We no longer even distinguish between private and public universities. We only talk of how many billions — or trillions — government should pay for everyone’s college education.
We no longer talk even of banking, mortgages, home ownership or previously private sector activities as anything other than government regulated behemoths.
To even introduce debate over whether government can best run some sector of the economy — or even has any right being involved in some sector of the economy — is to invite the rage of the elites who hope that these debates have been settled once and for all.
It’s truly a shame. Once people have lost the concept that there might be a better way to run things — a free-market system as opposed to a state-run economy, that is — they have lost the potential for improvement and growth.
In psychology, there’s a term called “identity foreclosure.” It refers to a rigid state of anxiety where the potential for continued personal growth stops. On a widespread scale, this is where America is. No growth, no innovation, no ingenuity — just freeze everything in place, keep it like it is now, and all will be fine.
But human life does not work that way. If an individual attempts to freeze in place his life, hiding from risk and change on principle — even forcing others to ensure he could maintain it — there’s no way it would sustain itself, over the long-run. It’s no different when an entire society tries to use its legal institutions to do it. Growth and innovation are not merely luxuries or preferences; they’re necessities, and any society that tries to eschew them will ultimately end up not with frozen stagnation, but total collapse.
As the economy continues to stagnate, or even decline, over the government-dominated show, there will not be anyone to say, “How about another way?” Because in the twenty-first century, just as in Bastiat’s time, to be against the government running our lives is to be against life itself. The question is never, “Should the government pass a law?” The question is only, “What’s right?” And what’s considered right — by the ruling elite — then becomes the force of law. From taxation to the amount of sugar in your soda, that’s the unwritten and unchallenged edict of our time.
The “progressives” of our time are the people who seek to take us back in time, to the ancient creed of sacrifice and brother’s keeperism. Americans are not really ready for this, but it’s what we’re all increasingly going to get — absent a massive and complete course reversal.
What Americans will gradually come to see — whether they allow themselves to understand, or continue to evade it — is that while it’s easy to say, “Man is his brother’s keeper,” it’s not so easy to practice that when your own liberty and prosperity are put on the line.
The “liberals” of our day are the least liberal of any era of history. Liberalism is supposed to mean freedom, innovation, production, activity, celebration of life. But if liberalism means socialism (and today it does), we’re talking about returning to the oldest, most tried and untrue social system ever known.
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