29 September 2008

Self-government versus the police state

Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives, such as Glenn Beck, have objected to the bailout plan on the grounds that it is an unwarranted takeover of a great deal of our economy, making it ever more a command economy. Limbaugh cites the statement of purpose in the present bailout plan, as an abrogation of the constitution.

It may all be true. It may bring us one step closer to a police state. But the road to police states is paved with cobble stones of self-indulgence, the self-indulgence of those whose behavior (even if only arguably) more and more renders drastic action not only thinkable, not only tolerable, but even desirable. If the people will not exercise self-control, state control is inevitable.

And the culprit isn’t capitalism, as some have said. Capitalism is simply an extension of notions of freedom and ownership of private property. The problem is with some of the practitioners of capitalism, whose desire for more and more for the sake of having more and more. The problem is with an out-of-control entitlement bloc, asserting that it isn’t just a beautiful thing for people one day to own a home; it is a right, and government (which must ensure that we all get our rights) must provide for the acquisition of those homes. The problem is with greedy “grievance-mongering”, in the form of people claiming “aggrieved” status and demanding redress of these grievances and never being satisfied with any redress. It’s just another form of greed. In the same way that greedy capitalists can only pursue more money, greedy grievance mongers can only pursue more redress. (Enter Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose mission was to increase homeownership among minorities, who, recall, are never quite satisfied with their own form of “more”. Enter also, arguably, the Community Reinvestment Act, which was used to motivate banks into loaning money to people who really couldn’t pay them, by threatening them with “racism” otherwise. The banks – get this – really thought those loans should be paid! Racists.)

Why not capitalism itself? I admit my bias: I am a capitalist, a rabid capitalist – of the “Austrian” school. But I’m a Christian first, so when there are failures I must look to the human element, specifically the human heart. Speaking of the “failure” of the Law, in the book of Romans, St. Paul says it was weak. He doesn’t say that it was weak in itself. Quite the contrary, it is good and holy. The weakness of the Law is in the weakness of the flesh, the heart of the one under the Law, even the one who wants to obey the Law. The Law is good, but my state is so bad that the goodness of the Law is of little good to me.

So it is with capitalism. Liberty and private property in themselves are good. The weakness of capitalism is in the flesh. When capitalism is understood as liberty, as opposed to libertinism, it isn’t a problem. But when liberty – capitalism – comes to mean anything goes, the situation is altered tremendously. Like sexual license any all freedoms are to run rampant; any attendant responsibilities can be passed along elsewhere. The price for our limitless sexual expression: millions of dead babies. The price for limitless “capitalism” is perhaps just coming into focus. If millions of dead babies could exact the price they probably would. The victims of limitless capitalism have a voice; they also have a vote.

There is a price for failure to exercise self-control, which the Puritans (whom we love to hate) called self-government. We can control ourselves, govern ourselves; or we can be controlled. Limbaugh and others may object to the necessity, even if it is a contrived necessity; but the logic is inexorable. The history is incontestable.

Police states don’t just pop up out of nowhere. And they generally are not found where people govern their passions.

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About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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